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Christopher Ifeanyichukwu Okigbo

Among the multitude of honorable men and women who have sacrificed their lives for their faith in the validity and righteousness of the cause of Igbo self-determination is Christopher Ifeanyichukwu Okigbo, the widely-acclaimed nonpareil poet and modernist writer of postcolonial Africa. Born in Ojoto (in what is now Anambra State) in 1932, Okigbo was the son of a Catholic school-teacher and was raised accordingly in the doctrines and traditions of the Roman Catholic Church. In 1951, after studying at the government college in Umuahia, he enrolled in the University of Ibadan as a student of Medicine but later switched to Classics in his second year of studies. By the conclusion of his studies, he had developed a reputation for himself as a skilled athlete as well as an excellent writer. After his graduation in 1956, he assumed various positions in educational and publishing institutions throughout the country and composed many of his iconic literary pieces and poems.

At the outbreak of the Nigerian-Biafran War in 1967, Okigbo returned to the East to assist in the realization of the Biafran cause. He joined the Biafran military and was immediately appointed to the rank of Major and tasked with the defense of Nsukka—the town which had tremendously shaped him as a writer—and its environs. Unfortunately, he was killed in an engagement with Nigerian forces on its outskirts not long after. In that same year, his home along with many of his unpublished writings were irrecoverably destroyed in an air raid—a calamity which has since been considered a setback to the Black intellectual world.

In his last poem before his death, “Elegy for Alto”, Okigbo is believed to have prophecize his own death as he writes: “Earth, unbind me; let me be the prodigal; let this be the ram’s ultimate prayer to the tether... AN OLD STAR departs, leaves us here on the shore Gazing heavenward for a new star approaching; The new star appears, foreshadows its going Before a going and coming that goes on forever....” #igbohistory


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