By Sunday Trust
The secret daughter ex-Biafran leader left behind was brought up by a prominent Muslim family in Kaduna. She lives among the Northern elite and detests any suggestion that links her with the former warlord. This is the extraordinary story of Ojukwu’s mystery daughter.
Even in death Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, Nigeria’s best known rebel leader, seems to have retained his ability to shock. The revelation that he had a secret daughter — to whom he allocated, in his will, one of his landed properties — shocked even the other members of his family. But perhaps more shocking is the discovery — through Sunday Trust investigation — that the daughter was actually brought up by a prominent Northern Muslim as his own “child”.
Tenny Hamman, as Ojukwu called her, was raised in Kaduna by former Deputy Inspector General of Police Hamman Maiduguri as his own “daughter”. Although she was formally named Aisha (the name she used in school), she is also called Tani (or Aunty Tani by younger relatives). Tani is a traditional Hausa name given to a female born on Monday. Apparently the name Tenny (or Tenni) that Ojukwu called her is the corrupted version of Tani.
Late Hamman Maiduguri was a top police officer who spent a significant part of his life in Kaduna. He hailed from the north-eastern city of Maiduguri, Borno State capital. He was appointed Northern Region’s commissioner of police after the death of the region’s Premier Sir Ahmadu Bello, the Sardauna of Sokoto. He later became the Deputy Inspector General of Police (DIG) during the regime of General Yakubu Gowon, the man who led the crushing of Ojukwu’s Republic of Biafra.
The story of how Hamman Maiduguri became “the father” of Ojukwu’s daughter appears to be as mysterious to even a section of his own family as it is to the other members of Ojukwu’s family.
Much of it is still shrouded in deep secrecy but Sunday Trust investigation reveals that the late police officer did raise Tenny as his own daughter.
There are conflicting versions of how she came to be late Hamman’s daughter. Some sources told Sunday Trust that she was the daughter of his wife, Mary Theresa (a Christian who later converted to Islam and is now called Inna or simply Hajia); others said Tenny was a daughter of Mary Theresa’s sister and that the family adopted her as their own.
One of the sources said Tenny’s mother gave birth to her before she married Hamman. “He accepted her with her baby and since then she has been bearing the name Tenny Hamman,” he said.
Whichever version is accurate, most sources said she was indeed brought up like a biological daughter of Hamman. Many residents of the area still believe that she is Hamman’s biological daughter. One source said she was among the people who inherited what he left behind when he died.
“It will be very difficult for you to unravel her true story because many knew her as Hamman’s biological daughter,” said the source. “She inherited part of his properties. This story you are trying to open is seen by some as mere tale because they grew up and know her as one of Hamman’s children,” he added.
“i will call the police”
Indeed, due to the cloud of secrecy surrounding the whole issue, details are hard to come by. When a hint of the story began to emerge following the announcement of Ojukwu’s will, the family mounted a formidable firewall to block any leakage from any possible source. Sunday Trust’s investigation was blocked from many angles and some of its staffers were even threatened with arrest and litigation.
When the leak first came that the woman Ojukwu spoke of as his daughter was a lady living in Kaduna, Sunday Trust search team spent considerable time trying to locate her.
Our correspondents who eventually located her at the house of late Hamman in Kaduna said Tenny is a woman approaching the age of 50. She is living with her aged mother, they said. One of them noted that she is Ojukwu’s “carbon copy”.
Apparently, she got a premonition that journalists, having heard of the will, might be looking for her. So when one of our correspondents knocked on the door to the house to seek an audience with her, she was ready for him.
As soon as he entered the house, she chased him away. “Who are you and why are you here?” she shouted. When he tried to introduce himself, she refused to listen to him.
“Leave here before I call the police,” she said angrily.
Many other family relations approached responded with hostility too. One of them threatened litigation. “If you mention anything about us, we’ll sue,” he warned.
Sources told Sunday Trust that Ojukwu met Tenny’s mother when he was a military officer in the North. He was in charge of 5th Battalion of the Nigerian Army in Kano, where he was also friends with the Emir of Kano, Alhaji Ado Bayero, before he was appointed the Governor of the Eastern Region following the first military coup in 1966.
Apparently, throughout the crisis surrounding the coup and counter-coup of July 1966 and the subsequent civil war that followed them as a result of Ojukwu’s declaration of Biafran independence, Ojukwu and his ex-lover kept the issue of their love child secret.
But as little Tenny grew up, there appeared to be some people who had suspected a link between her mother and Ojukwu.
Sources told Sunday Trust that there was a time when Tenny’s school mates at Queen’s Amina College, Kaduna, spread “gossips” that she was Ojukwu’s daughter. At the college, Tenny was said to be a tough girl and a bully. But when one slim girl called her Ojukwu’s daughter, she broke down in tears.
“Her mates were surprised that she could also be very weak,” the source said.
One of her classmates also told Sunday Trust that Tenny — known in the college as Aisha Hamman — was always uncomfortable with claims that she was Ojukwu’s daughter.
Another said, although she could be nice, she doesn’t tolerate nonsense. “We once fought in the school,” she told Sunday Trust in confidence. “Since then I have not been close to her. She didn’t even attend my marriage”.
They were 30 in their Queen’s Amina College class and they finished in 1978. It is unclear what other academic attainments Tenny got, but her college classmates said she at one time lived in the United States.
Another source also said she had worked at the presidency during General Sani Abacha’s regime.
“She got married and has a daughter, who should be in her 20s by now,” another source said. “But she has since parted ways with the husband”.
The will that outs Tenny
The revelation of Tenny as Ojukwu’s daughter came from the former Biafra leader’s will which was read at the Enugu State High Court penultimate Friday. It was presented to a section of the family by the chief registrar of the court Mr Dennis Ekoh.
The will listed Ojukwu’s children as follows: Tenny Hamman (daughter), Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu Jnr (son), Mmegha (Mimi) (daughter), Okigbo (son), Ebele (daughter), Chineme (daughter), Afam (son) and Nwachukwu (son).
Ojukwu’s widow, former beauty pageant Bianca Onoh but now Nigeria’s Ambassador to Spain, was there, ostensibly to represent both herself and the three children she had with Ojukwu: Chineme, Afam and Nwachukwu.
She reportedly expressed shock over the appearance of Tenny’s name in the will. She said her husband had never told her about Tenny when he was alive.
Apart from Bianca, Ojukwu’s first cousin, Mr Val Nwosu, and another relative, Mr Mike Ejemba, were at the court to witness the presentation. But Ojukwu’s other children were not there nor were they represented by anyone.
Based on the will, Bianca emerged as the biggest beneficiary of Ojukwu’s wealth. She is allocated his Casablanca Lodge located at No 7, Forest Crescent, GRA, Enugu; two of his properties at Jabi and Kuje in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja; and all his money and personal effects.
She is also to replace him as the trustee in the family company, Ojukwu Transport Limited. She was also given two plots of land in Nnewi. But Ojukwu put a strong caveat that Bianca should forfeit the land if she remarries.
His eldest son, Emeka Jnr., got the family house at Nnewi.
Tenny, who is apparently his eldest daughter, got Jubilee Hotel, located in Zaria, Kaduna State. Other children too have their own shares.
The hotel Ojukwu gave Tenny
Sunday Trust investigation traced the hotel Ojukwu allocated to his daughter to a lively area in Zaria. The investigation revealed that late warlord does indeed own a house and a hotel located on Hospital Road in Sabon Gari, Zaria.
The hotel used to be a very popular inn where people visited mainly to have drinks.
It is a one-storey building where the top floor is left open with burglars surrounding it perhaps for the safety of the customers.
However, when Sunday Trust’s correspondent visited the place, he observed that it is no longer functioning as a hotel: it has been turned into a warehouse.
A 65-year-old resident of the area confided to Sunday Trust that recently a son of Ojukwu, who resides in Germany, had visited the place and probably ordered for the change.
“It was after the visit of Ojukwu’s son to the area that the status of the hotel changed to a warehouse. What we learnt was that the place has been sold but I don’t know the details of the transaction.
“Of course, the hotel belonged to Ojukwu before he died. I can authoritatively confirm this to you because I know virtually all the owners of the properties in most areas of Sabon Gari,” he added.
“The place was very popular before the recent change of status. But as you can see, the place has now turned to a warehouse where provision items are stored,” he said.
Hospital Road, where Ojukwu’s house and the former hotel are located in Zaria, is predominantly occupied by people from southern part of Nigeria.
The hotel was located at the heart of the street while Hospital Road is one of the famous streets in Sabon Gari area. The hotel’s location, observers said, added to its popularity.
Apart from that, according to those interviewed by Sunday Trust, Sabon Gari houses most of the hotels that exist in Zaria.
Despite the popularity of Jubilee Hotel, though, some residents told Sunday Trust that they were not aware that it belonged to Ojukwu.
“Honestly, I heard it recently that Ojukwu owned the hotel. Of course, I know Jubilee Hotel for quite some time now but I never knew that it belonged to Ojukwu.
“When pub activities stopped taking place at the hotel, somebody told me that the place belonged to Ojukwu and his children have decided to change the status of the place.
“I learnt that before the demise of Ojukwu, the hotel was run by his brother but after his death, according to what I learnt, Ojukwu’s children took over,” another resident, Idris Tijjani, told Sunday Trust.
The controversy over the will
It is unclear whether Tenny will claim the hotel Ojukwu allocated to her. If she plans to do so, she may not face much trouble, despite the controversy that trails the presentation of the will.
Although the will itself has deepened the conflict among other members of Ojukwu’s family, the contending sides appeared to have accepted the allocation of the hotel to Tenny.
Bianca did not reject it and the first son, Emeka Jnr, too, said his father did have a will that mentions Tenny as his daughter and has awarded her landed property.
Emeka Jnr had rejected the will presented at the Enugu State High Court and claimed that the genuine will of his father has not yet been presented. But he admitted that in the genuine will, Tenny has her share.
The other controversy about the will is the omission of Ojukwu’s look-a-like son, Debechukwu Odumegwu-Ojukwu.
Debe has persistently claimed to be Ojukwu’s eldest child and is currently engaged in legal battle with other members of the family.
But his name did not feature in the will.
Ojukwu’s lawyer said that the former Biafran leader did not include Dede because the latter failed to prove that he was indeed his son.
Ojukwu’s randy past
The emergence of Tenny in Ojukwu’s will has once again brought to the fore his playboy lifestyle.
Although his admirers tend to play down such aspect, it keeps reverberating. At an event held last year ahead of his burial, majority of the speakers focused mainly on Ojukwu’s heroic deeds and boldness as a soldier.
But Nollywood actor and ace broadcaster, Chief Pete Edochie, surprised the huge audience when he talked about Ojukwu’s randy past.
“Ojukwu was a human being; Ojukwu loved women. As a matter of fact, I would describe him as H. G. Wells described Mr. Paully.
“H.G Wells said that Mr Paully was congenitally disposed to the worship of women. Well, those words may sound harsh but I will describe Ojukwu like that. Ojukwu loved women with a passion,” Edochie told the gathering.
When Sunday Trust contacted Edochie over Ojukwu’s revelation of Tenny as his love child and the property he reserved for her, he said he had no doubt about it.
“Ojukwu knows the number of children he had when he lived. If he had written such thing in his will, there is no point questioning the wish of the dead,” he said.