On the 51st anniversary of the self-immolation and death of Bruce Mayrock, Emeka Ojukwu’s widow fulfils her husband’s wish to immortalize the martyr
In the days following the stroke which would eventually take his life, one issue weighed heavily on Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu’s mind. That ‘issue’ was the immortalization of Bruce Mayrock, the 20-year-old who set himself ablaze in front of the UN Building in New York on this day (29th of May) in 1969 to draw attention to the plight of the Biafran people (a people whom he had never met, and whom he believed were at the brink of extermination, engaged in a desperate war for survival), who died in the early hours of 30th May, on the anniversary of the declaration of Biafra.
‘There is still time’, I assured my anxious spouse. ‘You will get through this, and then you will do it, as you planned.’
His response destabilized me. ‘I am a soldier,’ he said, looking straight into my eyes with all the equanimity of a man whose fate already lay before him; ‘the only modes of death I am conditioned to anticipate happen to be death at the battlefield or by execution… I never expected to get this far. If I don’t make it, do what you can…our people must never forget…’
Sadly, he did not survive… And steadily I embarked, stage by stage, upon Project Mayrock which, to the Glory of God, is nearing completion and slated for commissioning by the end of the year. The Mayrock is a three-story edifice including a conference hall with projectors, an exhibition floor that will house artistic depictions, iconic photos and historic scenes of our 30-month-long heroic battle for survival. Sculptures of Bruce Mayrock will adorn the landscape and memorial hall. Pupils from various schools will have an opportunity to visit and learn more about our struggle. The buildings and some of the artworks as shown here are still in process; however, since this particular anniversary marks 50 years of the end of the Biafra War — a momentous milestone — I thought it timely to share this initiative. The only input you are required to make into this project is to pass on the story of this selfless sacrifice, and that of so many others to our struggle, to your children. ‘A nation which forgets it’s defenders will itself be forgotten ’(Calvin Coolidge).
My appreciation goes to the architects and Arcon builders, the sculptors, artists as well the curators working with me on this project, to my children for their research and assistance and, very importantly, my profound thanks to Chief C. Martins Ndujepu. We started this journey together.
To our departed leader Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu: On yet another anniversary of the self-immolation and death of Bruce Mayrock, it is my honour to affirm to you — Ikemba Igbo nine, General of the People’s Army, Odum n’eche Igbo — that we have not forgotten; and the promise is fulfilled. The memories of our martyr Bruce and of all those who gave their lives that we may live… are enshrined in our hearts and minds. Generations yet unborn will be reminded of their sacrifice. The Mayrock Memorial Building stands as a monument and tribute to uncommon courage and heroism.
Brother Bruce, the people of Biafra, Land of the Rising Sun, today raise their trumpets in your honour. Again, we say THANK YOU. We will never forget you.
— Bianca Odumegwu Ojukwu
29 May 2020
A man of truth and conscience. From a wealthy background, stood for the oppressed and deprived and paid the supreme price. Painful! The United Nations still watches akimbo as all signs confirm a possible repeat of what led to your self-immolation. Rest on, Mayrock. You died a hero…