Nov 26, 2011

In Memoriam: C. Odumegwu Ojukwu 1933-2011

Chief Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, General of the Armed Forces of Biafra (1967-1970), Ikemba of Nnewi, and Dikedioramma Ndigbo passed away in London yesterday night. Ojukwu led the republic of Biafra in its failed secession against the Federal Government of Nigeria in a conflict that left more than one million Igbo civilians dead and pioneered images of starving African children in Western media. The pros and cons of the secession effort are still being debated but it is undeniable that the near-disintegration of the Nigerian union sparked several important changes of direction for the country. The Igbo peoples that emerged from the civil war faced great privation (I know; I was one of the Igbo children who survived the war). They lost everything in the war and had their properties in other parts of Nigeria confiscated but nevertheless went on to rebuild their lives at a very rapid pace afterwards. The seed of disunity that the war sowed in Nigeria has not healed even today. Thus although Igbo peoples are great overachievers and many attain great heights in their personal endeavors wherever in the world they are located, it is also true that their drive for personal achievement and overall ambition has undermined Igbo unity in the fractious politics of modern Nigeria. Dim Ojukwu was a uniting figure for Igbo peoples, a standard bearer for a lost glory and constant reminder to Igbo peoples at home and abroad of what might have been and of the sacrifice of those who died defending their right to simple human dignity. His passing leaves the entire Igbo nation greatly diminished.

Photograph of Ojukwu culled from Guardian Newspapers Nigeria.
Below: Flag of the Republic of Biafra

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