ON THIS DAY IN 1933, FORMER OVERALL LEADER OF THE SECESSIONIST STATE OF BIAFRA, CHUKWUEMEKA ODUMEGWU OJUKWU WAS BORN IN ZUNGERU, IN TODAY’S NIGER STATE.
On this day in 1933, a former Nigerian military officer and politician who served as the military governor of the Eastern Region of Nigeria in 1966 and the leader of the breakaway Republic of Biafra from 1967 to 1970 and who was active as a politician from 1983 to 2011, when he died, Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, was born in Zungeru, Niger State, North-Central Nigeria.
Emeka Ojukwu started his secondary school education at CMS Grammar School, Lagos aged 10 in 1943.
He later transferred to King’s College, Lagos in 1944 where he was involved in a controversy leading to his brief imprisonment for humiliating a white British colonial teacher who assaulted a black woman.
This event generated widespread coverage in local newspapers.
At 13, his father sent him overseas to study in the United Kingdom, first at Epsom College and later at Lincoln College, and Oxford University, where he earned a degree in History.
He returned to colonial Nigeria in 1956.
In 1957, after two years of working with the colonial civil service and seeking to break away from his father’s influence over his civil service career, he left and joined the military initially enlisting as a Junior non commissioned officer in Zaria.
From Zaria, Emeka proceeded first, to the Royal West African Frontier Force Training School in Teshie, Ghana and next, to Eaton Hall where he received his commission in March 1958 as a 2nd Lieutenant.
He was one of the first and few university graduates to receive an army commission at the time.
He gained rapid promotions and as a Lieutenant-Colonel, Ojukwu was in Kano, northern Nigeria, when Major Patrick Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu on 15 January 1966 executed and announced the bloody military coup in Kaduna.
Lt. Col. Odumegwu-Ojukwu supported the forces loyal to the Supreme Commander of the Nigerian Armed Forces, Major-General Aguiyi-Ironisi.
Aguiyi-Ironsi took over the leadership of the country and thus became the first military head of state.
On Monday, 17 January 1966, he appointed military governors for the four regions. Lt. Col. Odumegwu-Ojukwu was appointed Military Governor of Eastern Region.
On 29 July 1966, a group of officers, led by Majors Murtala Muhammed, Theophilus Yakubu Danjuma, and Captain Martins Adamu, led the majority Northern soldiers in a mutiny that later developed into a “Counter-Coup” or “July Rematch”.
The resulting confusion led Ojukwu to break-away eastern Nigeria and formed the republic of Biafra.
On 6 July 1967, Nigeria’s military leader, Gen. Yakubu Gowon declared war and federal forces attacked Biafra.
For 30 months, the war raged on and it finally came to an end in January of 1970 with Ojukwu going on exile.
On 26 November 2011, Ikemba Odumegwu Ojukwu died in the United Kingdom after a brief illness, aged 78.
The Nigerian Army accorded him the highest military accolade and conducted a funeral parade for him in Abuja, Nigeria.