Odumegwu Ojukwu

Odumegwu Ojukwu making a point
Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu. Photo: CNN

Odumegwu Ojukwu; Army officer, listed in the Nigerian Army in 1957  and rising through the ranks to become the military governor of the Nigeria Eastern Region in 1966. Ojukwu was the chief secessionist of the defunct Republic of Biafra, which he declared shortly after failed effort to broker peace with Head of State, Yakwubu Gowon at the Aburi Accord. The civil war which ended his republic was completed when Obasanjo received the instrument of surrender from Philip Effiong, Odumegwu Ojukwu’s deputy, on January 13, 1970. His exile in Ivory Coast came to an end in 1981. Ojukwu was the presidential flag-bearer of his All Progressive Grand Alliance, APGA, in April 2003 general elections.

Growing Up

Born November, 1933 in Zungeru, Niger State, Odumegwu  father was Sir Louis Odumegwu Ojukwu, the first acclaimed Nigerian millionaire. Ojukwu schooled at CMS Grammar School and College, both in Lagos, Epsom College, Surrey; Lincoln College, University of Oxford; Eaton Hall Cadet School, and Joint Service Staff College, Camberly, both in England[1]. Ojukwu studied history at Britain’s Oxford, one of he leading universities in the world whose certificate meant, in the colonial days, a visa into the club of the elite. But the young Ojukwu opted to join the army instead of the civil service where his influential father, the famous transporter, wanted him.

Long before the army ended the fledgling country’s democracy in 1966, Ojukwu was already well known in the circles of power as the rich kid who joined the army. In those days, it was rare for university graduates to opt for a career in the military or in the police. Three of those adventurers were Brigadier General Oluwole Rotimi, third military governor of the defunct Western State, Joseph Gomwalk, the police officer who became the first military ruler of the now defunct Benue-Plateau State and Christopher Okigbo, who died on the battlefield. All three graduated from the University of Ibadan.


Civil War

A man who had opted for a career in the military suddenly found himself at the centre of a vicious political struggle that would ultimately lead to tragedy and the death of more than one million people. It was Major-General Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi, the first military ruler, who made Ojukwu the governor of the Eastern Group of Provinces. At that time, Aguiyi-Ironsi, with advice from some top civil servants, made attempts to dissolve the federation and create in its stead a group of provinces. He was  advised that federalism was a problem and that a unitary state would serve Nigeria better[2]. Ojukwu who was appointed Military Governor, defunct Eastern Region, 1966-67 was  proclaimed Head of State and Commander-in-Chief “Republic of Biafra”, May 1967-70. He was dismissed from the Nigerian Army, July 1, 1967; and promoted General, “Biafran Army”, 1968. He was granted political asylum by Ivory Coast (now Cote D’lvoire) after the collapse of ‘Biafra’, January 1970. Ojukwu was subsequently  granted state pardon and returned to Nigeria, June 18, 1982. He was reinstated into the Nigerian Army and retired with full benefits, May, 2000[3].

[1] Insider November 8, 2004

[2] TELL November 17, 2003

[3] Who is Who, Newswatch

Tope Apoola
Profession: Writer