Monday, November 28, 2011

FORMER BIAFRAN LEADER IS DEAD


The secessionist leader during Nigeria's civil war in the late 1960s and a pivotal figure in the country's history, Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, has died aged 78, the Nigerian presidency announced on Saturday.

Ojukwu would be "remembered forever as one of the great personalities of his time who stood out easily as a brave, courageous, fearless, erudite and charismatic leader", a statement said.

The former leader died in Britain although no cause of death was given. Local media reported it had occurred overnight. He had been ill and receiving treatment overseas for a number of months.

The Oxford-educated Ojukwu, who had been an army lieutenant-colonel, led the campaign for an independent state of Biafra in eastern Nigeria in the 1960s that included a two-and-a-half year civil war from 1967-1970 which left more than a million dead.

He remains a revered figure in eastern Nigeria, where the Igbo people dominate. Ojukwu's 1967 declaration of independence for Biafra came largely in response to the killing of large numbers of Igbos in the country's north.

Control of the country's vast oil resources also played an important role in the war. Many of those killed died from starvation and disease, with a blockade having led to food shortages.

Son of multimillionaire

Ojukwu went into exile after the Biafrans surrendered in 1970 and only returned more than a decade later.

"The war was a tragedy, but it was inevitable, unavoidable," he said in an interview in the book My Nigeria: Five Decades of Independence by AFP journalist Peter Cunliffe-Jones.

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