Odumegwu Ojukwu , in full Chief Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu (born November 4, 1933, Zungeru, Nigeria—died November 26, 2011, London, England), Nigerian military leader and politician, who was head of the secessionist state of Biafra during the Nigerian civil war.
Ojukwu was the son of a successful Igbo businessman. After graduating from the University of Oxford in 1955, he returned to Nigeria to serve as an administrative officer. After two years, however, he joined the army and was rapidly promoted thereafter. In January 1966 a group of largely Igbo junior army officers overthrew Nigeria’s civilian government but then were forced to hand power to the highest-ranking military officer, Major General T.U. Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi (also an Igbo); he appointed Lieutenant Colonel Ojukwu as 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 the Igbo, and in July 1966 northern officers staged a successful countercoup in which Lieutenant Colonel (later General) Yakubu Gowon was installed as the new head of state. Under Gowon’s rule, Ojukwu retained his command of the Eastern region. Meanwhile, the rising tide of feeling against the Igbo in the Northern region led to large-scale massacres of Igbos by northerners in May–September 1966.
The Eastern region felt increasingly alienated from the federal military government under Gowon. Ojukwu’s main proposal to end the ethnic strife was a significant devolution of power to the regions. The federal government initially 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 sovereign state as the Republic of Biafra. Federal troops soon