- Ojukwu, Odumegwu
born Nov. 4, 1933, Nnewi, NigeriaGovernor of Eastern Region, Nigeria (1966–67), and head of the secessionist state of Biafra (1967–70).A member of the Igbo, Ojukwu was educated at Oxford University. He was appointed head of the traditional Igbo homelands in the east following the overthrow of Nigeria's civilian government by Igbo military leaders. He stayed on in that capacity even after members of the opposition Hausa and Yoruba staged a successful countercoup. Mounting secessionist pressures compelled him to declare the Eastern Region an independent state in 1967. Following the Biafra conflict he fled to Côte d'Ivoire; he returned to Nigeria in 1982.
* * *▪ Nigerian politicianin full Ikemba Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwuborn November 4, 1933, Nnewi, NigeriaNigerian military leader and politician, who was head of the secessionist state of Biafra during the Nigerian civil war.The son of a successful Igbo businessman, Ojukwu graduated from the University of Oxford in 1955. He returned to Nigeria to serve as an administrative officer but after two years joined the army and was rapidly promoted thereafter. In January 1966 a group of largely Igbo junior army officers led by Major General Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi overthrew Nigeria's civilian government. Lieutenant Colonel Ojukwu was appointed military governor of the mostly Igbo Eastern region. However, Hausa and Yoruba army officers from the Northern and Western regions feared a government dominated by Igbo, and in July 1966 northern officers staged a successful countercoup in which Lieutenant Colonel (later General) Yakubu Gowon (Gowon, Yakubu) became the new head of state. Ojukwu retained his command of the Eastern region under Gowon's rule as the rising tide of feeling against the Igbo in the Northern region led to large-scale massacres of Igbo civilians by northern soldiers in September 1966.The Eastern region felt increasingly isolated and alienated from the federal military government under Gowon. Ojukwu's main proposal to end the ethnic strife was the creation in Nigeria of a weak federation-type government, which would allow the largest ethnic groups to have substantial political autonomy. The federal government tentatively agreed to this solution at a conference in January 1967 but then rejected it soon afterward. Ojukwu responded in March–April 1967 by separating the Eastern regional government's administration and revenues from those of the federal government. Mounting secessionist pressures from his fellow Igbo finally compelled Ojukwu on May 30, 1967, to declare the Eastern region an independent state as the Republic of Biafra. Federal troops soon afterward invaded Biafra, and civil war broke out in July 1967. Ojukwu led Biafra's unsuccessful struggle to survive as an independent nation throughout the civil war (1967–70), and on the eve of Biafra's surrender he fled to Côte d'Ivoire, where he was granted asylum.Ojukwu remained in Côte d'Ivoire until 1982, when he was pardoned and returned to Nigeria. He joined the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) in January 1983 and subsequently attempted to reenter politics by running as an NPN candidate; his bid for the senate representing the state of Onitsha was unsuccessful. He was detained for 10 months following a coup that brought Muhammad Buhari (Buhari, Muhammad) to power at the end of 1984. In 1993 he once again joined a political party, this time the Social Democratic Party, but he was disqualified from running for president.A member of constitutional conferences in 1993 and again from 1994–95, he, along with other former Nigerian leaders, was consulted in 1998 by Abdusalam Abubakar (Abubakar, Abdusalam), the military head of state, as Nigeria once again began the process of converting from military to civilian rule. In 2003 Ojukwu, representing the new political party All Progressive Grand Alliance, unsuccessfully ran for president. He ran again in 2007 but was defeated by the ruling party's candidate, Umaru Yar'Adua, in an election that was strongly criticized by international observers as being marred by voting irregularities.
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