The feud between Emeka Ojukwu Jnr and Sylvester Debe has been lingering for some years and has so far defiled every advice and efforts to assuage the two parties. Sylvester Debe was born by a different mother earlier when Ojukwu was in his late twenties while Emeka Ojukwu Jnr is the son of Njideka, Ojukwu's late wife from Nawfia in Anambra state. There is a controversy over the correct status of Sylvester Debe's mother who died some years ago. While Emeka Ojukwu Jnr and his sibling alleged that their father did not formally marry Debe's mother, she was only his concubine.
Debe on the other hand debunked the claim as mischievous falsehood and strongly stated that Emeka Ojukwu Snr paid his mother's bride price.
However, the larger Ojukwu-Okigbo family and some Elders in Nnewi appear divided over the issue in contention said an elderfrom Umudim Nnewi: “It is unfair for anybody to deny Sylvester Debe his birth right. He is Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu's first son in flesh and blood. Ojukwu recognized and accepted him as his son when he was alive. The issue of whether Ojukwu formally married his mother is not important because it cannot diminish the fact that his is the son of Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu. Nnewi indigenes know him as our brother the son of Ojukwu. Full stop”
However another elderly man from Umudim, Nnewi differed a little in his own reaction: “The problem between the two brothers has been in for some time. You know, that is what obtains on most families were the children have different mothers. But in this case, the issue is not whether it was Chukwuemeka Ojukwu who gave birth to Sylvester Debe but whether he is Ojukwu's legitimate and traditional son since it is being alleged that his mother was not properly married to Ojukwu. You know, in some parts of Igboland if a man impregnates a woman he is not traditionally married to, the child of the woman is not his own unless he marries her before she delivers” the elder said, adding: - “that is why we warn young boys and girls nowadays to be careful, let them control their loins and womanhood, if you must impregnate a woman, first get married to her or you will be denied the joy of owing your own child. For the woman, your child from an illegitimate relationship will experience this type of crisis when he grows up and it is so painful!
Another issue that was said to have caused the rift between Sylvester Debe and Emeka Ojukwu Jnr is the recent titled of Ikemba II conferred in Emeka by the Nawfia Ruling Council.
“Dede's mother's opinion is that his younger brother accepted the title to spite him and to further his claim their late father's heir apparent. Debe thought Emeka should have discreetly rejected the offer to give him their late father's title when his senior brother is still alive. It was also considered an insult to Nnewi Traditional Council that a title given to one of their sons is being replicated to the holder's young son by another community even without his formal burial.
Ojukwu's confidant: Competent source disclosed that Sylvester Debe was very close to Ojukwu in his life time. Ojukwu was said to be glad that among his children, he was his carbon copy, his replica in mannerism and facial features. He sent for Sylvester Debe always to confer with him on family matters and other personal issues. Ojukwu was proud of Debe and flaunted him as child of his youthful age, the first fruit of the strength as a man.
“Ojukwu loved Debe as much as his other children; it was obvious from the rapport between them. Although he lives in Festac Area in Lagos, he was always with Ojukwu in Enugu especially when he became sick. Ojukwu told him a lot of things before he died, it's like Debe was his father's confidant. I don't know what really caused the latest problem in Ojukwu family but I heard that Debe is unhappy about how certain decisions concerning his father's funeral were taken without his consent as well as how his younger brother Emeka Ojukwu Jnr was exalting himself above him in the seniority line, a source said.
It was learned that the Ojukwu family was not very united in arriving at the conclusion on the funeral activities for their late father. Although their father was given a befitting burial much attention was given to the children of Njideka and Bianca Odinaka while the children of other woman like Debe's mother and late Stella Onyeador's adopted daughter were ignored.
“Initially Debe was involved in the arrangement, when Ojukwu's immediate family met, he was there, he also participated in the Ojukwu-Okigbo larger family meeting. It was Debe who led the delegation to the palace of Igwe Kenneth Orizu's to formally inform him of his father's death. But he was not personally present in the several meetings held between Ojukwu family and Governor Peter Obi on one hand and with President Jonathan's team on other hand. However, he was denied his wish to be given a prominent role on the final date of burial. This disagreement between him and his younger brother Emeka Ojukwu Jnr led to the insignificant role he played on that funeral day.”
National Daily learned that despite Ojukwu's family skirmishes, the Council of Chiefs and elders in Umudim and the entire Nnewi still recognize Sylvester Debe as the eldest child of Emeka Ojukwu and have been doing all that is within their powers to ensure that the children are united for the interest of peace and the need to protect Ojukwu's legacy.
Source said that Governor Peter Obi initially made efforts to reconcile the feuding brothers all to no avail. He was said to have advised Emeka Ojukwu Jnr, a former commissioner in his cabinet, to take his elder brother into confidence in his father's funeral plans and also made efforts to convince Bianca to play a positive role. Emeka Ojukwu Jnr was said to have maintained that there was not much problem between him and his elder brother whom he said was only being too sensitive.
Ojukwu-Okigbo larger family also tried several times to ensure that the immediate family of Ojukwu presented a common front on the day of their father's burial. They advised the two offspring to work together as children of one man in other to make their father proud. But unfortunately, their efforts appeared not to have yielded much fruit as was evident by the manner in which only Emeka Ojukwu Jnr was seen at the head of supervising the hosts and dishing out necessary instruction to whoever that is concerned.
The seemingly ostracizing treatment meted out to him has caused much sorrow to Debe who was very sober all through his father's funeral ceremony. He was said to have sat quietly in painful reminiscence as he acknowledged condolences from visitors.
Although, Chukwuemeka Odumekwu-Ojukwu's immediate family members appears to be at loggerheads they are united in prosecuting the suit they instituted against their late father and his brothers in a Lagos High Court.
They are asking the court to declare them (Emeka Ojukwu's Children) the real owners of their grand fathers, Sir Louis Philip Odumegwu-Ojukwu's multimillion naira properties located mainly in Lagos.