Shagari, Alhaji Shehu

Shagari, Alhaji Shehu

Shagari, Alhaji Shehu, 1925-, president of Nigeria (1979-83). In 1978 he helped form the National party, and his subsequent election as president marked the end of 13 years of military rule in Nigeria. Continued economic problems and government corruption eventually led to his overthrow (1983).

General Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, Ikemba Nnewi, known as Emeka Ojukwu, (born November 4, 1933) was the leader of the secessionist state of Biafra in Nigeria (1967–1970), during the Nigerian Civil War, and previously Military Governor of the Eastern Region of Nigeria. He is usually referred to in news and other sources just as Ojukwu.

Frederick Forsyth, a friend, wrote a biography about him titled Emeka. It was published in 1982. Ojukwu was also a prototype of anonymous General character in Forsyth's novel The Dogs of War published in 1974.


He was born in Zungeru, the son of Sir Louis Odumegwu Ojukwu (KBE), President of The African Continental Bank, first President of The Nigerian Stock Exchange and a business tycoon who was believed to be Nigeria's first multi-millionaire. Chukwuemeka's name meant "God has done well." He attracted media publicity at a young age. In 1944, the young Ojukwu was briefly imprisoned for assaulting a white British colonial teacher who was humiliating a black woman at King's College in Lagos, an event which generated widespread coverage in local newspapers. He then went on to study in Britain, first at Epsom College, in Surrey and later earned a Masters degree in history at Lincoln College, Oxford University.


Ojukwu decided to enter the military over the objections of his father, who wanted him to study law. He joined the Nigerian military and graduated from the prestigious Sandhurst Military Academy in England. He then became a Lieutenant Colonel in the Army of Nigeria and Military Governor of the oil rich Eastern Region. Following an anti-Igbo/Christian genocidal pogrom in the Muslim Northern Region, Igbo chiefs met at Umuahia in the Eastern Region. They decided to declare the region consisting of the Igbo heartland, the Niger Delta (mostly Ijaw) and the Cross River basin (Efik and Ibibio areas) independent. Ojukwu was chosen by the Igbos to lead the new country and appointed Head of State & General of the Peoples Army, named "Biafra" after the Bight of Biafra.

Despite some early Biafran successes, such as the world famous Abagana ambush in which two divisions of the Nigerian Army were annihilated, the Nigerians slowly gained the upper hand, supported by the United Kingdom and the Soviet Union and, tacitly, by the United States. Among the world's major nations, only France and Portugal offered some support to Biafra.

On June 1, 1969, he delivered the Ahiara Declaration, a patriotic speech, in the village of Ahiara. The speech condemned racism and imperialism, and asserted "our inalienable right to self determination". Ojukwu condemned as genocide the actions of Nigeria and the United Kingdom, for completely blockading Biafra without exception for children or other noncombatants.

After Biafra

Ojukwu left Biafra as it collapsed, intending to set up a government in exile. He subsequently lived in Ivory Coast for 13 years. Seeking to bolster his support among Igbos, President Alhaji Shehu Shagari pardoned Ojukwu and allowed him to return to Nigeria in 1980. He joined Shagari's National Party of Nigeria (NPN) and contested the 1983 election for the Senate.

In February of 1994 Ojukwu accepted an invitation to give a speech at the Lagos Law School.

As the candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), he ran for President in the 2003 presidential election. He claimed to have won the election and filed a court challenge against what he said was the "massive fraud" that allegedly denied him the presidency.

Today Ojukwu lives a quiet life in Eastern Nigeria. In early December 2006 he was again chosen to be the APGA presidential candidate for the April 2007 election. On January 14 2008 he received his military pension from the Nigerian government, but on this occasion he complained that he was referred to as a lieutenant colonel and not as a general, his rank in the Biafran military.

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