MJoTAtalks is the voice of Medical Journal of Therapeutics Africa, at www.mjota.org
Dr Susanna loves the countries and the peoples of Africa

Nigerian Civil War Remembrance

Jan 29, 2012

The organizers in New York promised that the memorial to General Odumegwu-Ojukwu would go on until dawn. It may have. I left at 1am, I had been at the Igbo Cultural Center in Queens, New York, since 2pm.


Amazing how many people I knew in New York who were at the Memorial. I don't know why I didn't know they were Igbo, and intimately part of the struggle for nationhood of Biafra.


I still do not know why Britain and the US actively worked against Biafran independence, and why the Roman Catholic Church supported it. I know why Cuba and Haiti supported the declaration of independence of Biafra. Of course they did.


I met Professor Amechi Okola, the young leader of the Commandos who got his PhD and had an academic career in Ife for decades afterwards.

I met Ivorian troops, who had a place of honor yesterday, who fought with Biafrans. After the war, after the general was forced to leave Biafra by his loyal advisers and citizens, he lived in exile in Cote D'Ivoire, for 12 years.

I met Captain August Okpe, the pilot who flew the first plane of the war, and the last plane of the war out of Biafra, and was imprisoned after the war in Nigeria for a year. He was young, 26, and he commanded the Biafran Airforce. Click here for page on him.

But everyone was young in 1967: General Ojukwu was 33, so was the president of Nigeria. Myself, I was 15, and I remembered hearing that a bunch of Africans were killing themselves and starvi8ng children to death. To reasd stories about Biafra published in MJoTA, click here.

General Odumegwu-Ojukwu

Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu was born in northern Nigeria in 1933 to extremely wealthy parents.

 He was born in the early years of the world wide depression, and everything he was able to do resulted from him nimbly jumping from stepping stone to stepping stone over the fast moving events of the 20th century: the second world war (started when he was 5, ended when he was 11); the end of British colonial rule in 1960 when he was 26, had completed his Oxford education and had completed his British Army officer training.

He was primed to be a leader in the new Republic of Nigeria, and lead he did.

His father took off before his birth. As a young boy, the General was taken away from his mother by his father, who decided that he was to have the education of a British gentleman. Which meant first, boarding school in Nigeria.


When he was 12, after the second world war had ended, he was sent to England for boarding school and then Oxford University. He was a baccalaureate, and later, a master of arts.

He rapidly rose to the top of all professions he tried, and he always tried very hard to star at the bottom. After a year or so in the Nigerian Civil Service, during British rule, he joined the army as a private.

He was the second ever university graduate in the Nigerian Army, and was pulled out of the ranks and commissioned an officer, and the British Army trained him well in England.

The General's later years astonished me when I first heard about them. He was given a military pension by the Nigerian government, and afetr a lingering illness and long hospital stay, he died in a hospital in England.

RIP Colonel Ikemba. You did well. You tried, and I have heard scholars say that if you had not declared the Nation of Biafra, far more, far more Igbos would have been murdered, holocausted, genocided. Say a prayer for the 3 million who died before and during the Nigerian Civil War of 1967-1970.