Names are added upon the approval of an evaluation committee. Updated once a week.
Map of Igboland of Nigeria.
This area is inhabited by ethnic Igbo people, among which are groups claiming non Igbo ethnicity or heritage, but nonetheless have significant Igboid cultural and linguistic attributes.
Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe was the first Igbo from the former Eastern Region of Nigeria to graduate from a 4-year university, achieving this feat in 1930 at Lincoln University in the USA. A few Igbo, who were freed slaves or descendants of freed slaves who lived in Sierra Leone, had attended Fourah Bay College in Sierra Leone before Azikiwe’s time. Zik, as he was fondly known, was the first and only indigenous Governor General of Nigeria. In 1963, when Nigeria became a republic, he became its first President.
Olaudah Equiano was an explorer, abolitionist, and the first Igbo author. Captured as a slave in Igboland and taken away to the West Indies, he learned to read and write on his own and became a sailor. He later lived in England where he married a white woman and published his autobiography.
Flora Nwapa (1931 – 1993)
Flora Nwapa was born in Oguta. She was an accomplished author. Her novel, Efuru, was the first by an African woman author to be published in the English language.
Her Excellency Flora Azikiwe (1917 – 1983)
Charming and graceful, Mrs Azikiwe became the first First Lady of Nigeria following her husband’s elevation to the Presidency of Nigeria in 1963. Dr. Azikiwe had been Governor General from 1960 to 1963.
Hon. Mazi Mbonu Ojike (1914 -1956)
Mbonu Ojike received university education in the United States in the 1940s. He was present at the formation of the United Nations in San Francisco in 1945, attending as a student observer. Mbonu served in various positions as a legislator and as a minister in the Eastern Nigerian Regional Government in the 1950s.
Dick Tiger ( 1929 -1971)
Dick Tiger achieved fame in the 1960s as a boxer, winning two world titles in his career—the Middleweight and Light Heavyweight titles. Tiger retired in 1970 and returned home from his US base in 1971.
Nwanyereuwa ( Born in the late 19th century and died in the decade of the 1940s) There is no known photo of Nwanyereuwa, and so the selection of a silhouette to depict her.
Nwanyereuwa was the instigator of the women’s tax revolt against the British colonial authority in 1929, for it was in her home that an altercation occurred between her and a tax enumerator. The Aba Women’s Tax Revolt was the first mass action of a political nature taken against British colonial policies in Nigeria.
Her Excellency Maryam Ngozi Babangida (1948 -2009)
Maryam Babangida was born in Asaba to a Hausa mother and an Igbo father, Leonard Okogwu. Spouse of General Ibrahim Babangida and Nigeria’s First Lady from 1985 to 1993, Mrs Babangida launched numerous programs to uplift the condition of Nigerian women.
Professor Kenneth Dike (1917 -1983)
Professor Dike was the first Nigerian Vice Chancellor of the University of Ibadan from 1960-1967. A historian, he was the father of the School of Thought that promoted the research and presentation of African history from the perspectives of Africans. He published his acclaimed book “Trade and Politics in the Niger Delta, 1830-1885” in 1956.
Hon. Chuka Umunna (1978 -)
Chuka Umunna is a member of the British Parliament and a rising star in the Labor Party. He is considered the British Obama—charismatic, articulate and bi-racial. At 38 years old (in 2016)and still a young man, many project him as a future Prime Minister.
Hon. John Godson (1970 – )
Born Chikama Onyekwere, John Godson entered the Polish Parliament in 2010. He was reelected in 2011. Prior to his service in Parliament, he served as a City Council Member in the city of Lodz.
Christian Emeka Okoye (1961 – )
The Nigerian Nightmare, as Okoye was popularly nicknamed during his National Football League Days, tore through defenses with his raw strength and powerful running. Okoye played fullback for for the Kansas City Chiefs and captured the league’s rushing title in 1989. He made 2 pro bowl appearances. Okoye played in the NFL from 1987-1992.
His Excellency Major General Johnson Thomas Umunnakwe Aguiyi Ironsi (1924-1966)
Gen. Ironsi was the first indigenous GOC of the Nigerian Army, the first to lead a Nigerian Peace Keeping Force, deployed in Congo in 1960, the first PSC of the Nigerian Army, the first indigenous General of the Nigerian Army, the first Nigerian General to command a United Nations Force in Congo, and the first military Head of State, assuming that position on January 16, 1966.
His Excellency Dr. Michael Iheonukara Okpara (1920-1984)
Dr. Okpara was a medical doctor and a political leader. He was premier of the Eastern Region of Nigeria from 1959 to 1966. The economy of the Eastern Region of Nigeria during Okpara’s leadership was rated by the United Nations as the fastest growing in the Third World.
His Excellency Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu (1933-2011)
Ojukwu was a scion of the first West African millionaire, Sir Louis Odumegwu Ojukwu. He obtained a masters degree from Oxford University then joined the Nigerian Army in 1957, and rose to the rank of Lt. Colonel by 1966. In 1967, following a great national upheaval during which thousands of Eastern Nigerian citizens were massacred, Ojukwu led the Eastern Region to secede from Nigeria.
His Excellency Dennis Osadebay (1911-1994)
After training as a lawyer in the 1940s, Osadebay set up practice in Aba, in the Eastern Region of Nigeria. He led the fight for the creation of the Mid West Region of Nigeria out of the Western Region in 1963 and became its first premier.
Professor Chinua Achebe ( 1930-2013)
Chinua Achebe brought the Igbo world to the attention of the entire world with the publication of his epic novel, Things Fall Apart, in 1958. Achebe was also an accomplished poet and academic.
Professor Catherine Acholonu (1951 – 2014)
Professor Acholonu was an academician and researcher par excellence. She published several books, wrote numerous articles and made presentations in a number of areas throughout the world. Her in depth work on Igbo history contributed immensely to scholarship in that branch of history.
Onyeka Onwenu (1952 -)
Onyeka Onwenu is a multitalented artiste, credited with several smash hits. She is also an accomplished actress, politician and administrator.
Professor Dora Akunyili (1954 2014)
Professor Akunyili was a renowned academic and a seasoned administrator. Her headship of the Nigerian National Agency for Food and Drug Administration Control (NAFDAC) from 2008 to 2010 shook up the medicinal drug trade, as thousands of quack medicine dealers were put out of business. Akunyili later became a Federal Minister and courageously stood up for the constitution to be followed during Nigeria’s constitutional crisis of 2010, and helped pave the way for then Vice President Goodluck Jonathan to become Acting President.
Professor Joy Uche Ogwu (1946-)
An accomplished academic, Professor Ogwu taught at the Nigerian War College and at the Nigerian Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies. She is a former Director General of the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs, Foreign Minister, and currently Permanent Representative of Nigeria to the United Nations.
Captain Chinyere O. Kalu
Captain Kalu is Nigeria’s first female pilot. She obtained her pilot’s license from the Nigerian School of Aviation in 1978. She is the recipient of several national honors and awards, including Member of the Federal Republic (MFR), African International Achievers Merit Award, and member of Nigerian Women Achievers Hall of Fame. Captain Kalu has flown various aircrafts and has thousands of flight hours under her belt. In 2011, she was appointed Rector of the Nigerian College of Aviation Technology, Zaria.
Tony Onyemaechi Elumelu, CFR, CON. (1963-)
Mr. Tony Onyemaechi Elumelu, CFR, CON is the chairman of Heirs Holdings, The United Bank for Africa, and Transcorp. He is also chairman of the Tony Elumelu Foundation. Mr. Elumelu, who is probably the richest Igbo man alive, worth more than $1 billion, received degrees from Ambrose Alli University and the University of Lagos, and studied at Harvard University. He has availed some of his vast resources toward encouraging budding African entrepreneurs, awarding grants in the millions of dollars to young and creative entrepreneurs to launch business enterprises across the continent.
Stephen Okechukwu Keshi, CON. (1962- 2016)
Stephen keshi amassed a number of firsts in his sterling career as a footballer, captain and coach of the Nigerian National Football Team, The Super Eagles. He was the first Nigerian player to win the African Nations Cup Championship both as a player (in Tunisia) and as a coach (in South Africa in 2013). He was the first Nigerian and African coach to reach the round of 16 in a World Cup Tournament, achieving that feat in Brazil in 2014. He was the first and only African coach to qualify the nation of Togo for the World Cup in 2006.
Editor’s note: Keshi passed away on June 7, 2016 in Benin City Nigeria. His bio above has been edited to reflect his unfortunate early demise at just 54 years old.
Professor Gordian Obumneme Ezekwe was a Mechanical engineer, a brilliant academic and an inventor. He headed the Research and Production Unit (RAPU) of Biafra during the Biafra-Nigeria War and in the course of that war led his remarkable team in the production of offensive and defensive weapons for the Biafran Army. RAPU under him built mini refineries and was credited with many other inventions that were used in civil Biafran society. After the war, the then East Central State Government appointed Professor Ezekwe head of the Project Development Agency (PRODA), a research entity modeled on Biafra’s RAPU. Recognizing Professor Ezekwe’s extraordinary talent, General Ibrahim Babangida, then military President, appointed him to the post of Minister of Science and Technology in 1990.
Sir Louis Odumegwu Ojukwu, KBE (1901 -1966)
Sir Louis Odumegwu Ojukwu was the father of Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, Head of State of Biafra. In the 1950s, Sir Louis became the first West African millionaire with vast holdings in transportation and real estate. He was the founding President of the Nigerian Stock Exchange and President of the African Continental Bank. In recognition of his success and influence, he was honored as a Knight of the British Empire (KBE) by the British Monarchy.
Dr. Ngozi Okonjo Iweala (1954-)
Dr, Ngozi Okonjo Iweala is a Harvard and MIT trained economist of world renown. She is a former Vice President and Secretary, and Managing Director of the World Bank. She has served as a two-time Minister of Finance of Nigeria. During her first appointment as Finance Minister (from 2003 to 2006), she spearheaded Nigeria’s relief from a crushing foreign debt of over $30 billion. In her second stint as Minister (2011-2015), she cleaned from the federal payrolls, thousands of ghost workers and saved the government billions in false salary payments. Dr. Iweala was briefly Foreign Minister of Nigeria in 2006.
Professor Eni Njoku received a Ph.D from the University of London in 1954. He served as Dean of the Faculty of Science of the University of Ibadan before being appointed the first Vice Chancellor of the University of Lagos in 1962. In 1965, he was appointed Vice Chancellor of the University of Nigeria Nsukka. He also served as chairman of the Electricity Corporation of Nigeria in 1956.
His Excellency Alex Ifeanyichukwu Ekwueme (1932-)
Dr. Ekwueme was the first Nigerian to graduate from the University of Washington in Washington State, USA in the 1950s, graduating with a degree in Architecture. He went on to receive a doctorate degree from the University of Strathclyde. Dr. Ekwueme established Nigeria’s first architectural firm, Ekwueme and Associates, in the 1960s. Dr. Ekwueme has additional degrees in Sociology, philosophy and law. He was elected Vice President of Nigeria in 1979 on a joint ticket with Alhaji Shehu Shagari. During the regime of General Abacha (1993-1998), Ekwueme led the Igbo delegation (Mkpoko Igbo) to Abacha’s Constitutional Conference, held from 1994 to 1995, and courageously pushed for the 13% oil and other minerals derivation provisions in the constitution and the recognition of a six geopolitical structure in principle. Dr. Ekwueme spearheaded the formation of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in 1998 and was its first national chairman.
Nwankwo Kanu, OON (1976-)
Nwankwo Kanu played amateur and professional football in his stellar career. After playing for local Nigerian clubs as a young teenager, his extraordinary talents took him afar, and he later starred for top European teams and the Nigerian national team, The Super Eagles. He captained the Super Eagles for several years. At the Atlanta Olympics in 1996, he led the national team to its most glorious soccer championship when it captured the gold medal. Kanu has won several titles in his career, including a UEFA Champions medal, and FA Cup Winners Medals. He was twice voted African Footballer of the Year. Kanu established the Nwankwo Kanu Heart Foundation to help poor African kids and young adults suffering from heart problems. Kanu retired from the game in 2011 after 2 decades of exciting football artistry before millions of fans throughout the world.
Cyprian Uzoh was educated at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, USA. He is a prolific inventor, who holds 126 patents in the USA and 160 worldwide. He won the prestigious inventor of the year award in the USA in 2006 and is credited with trailblazing work in the semiconductor industry, and the use of the technology of copper interconnection. IBM is among the top technology companies that integrated Uzor’s work with its products.
Major Emmanuel Ifeajuna (1935 – 1967)
Before Ifeajuna’s controversial military career, he achieved fame as the first African gold medal winner in international competitive sports, winning the high jump medal at the British Empire and Commonwealth Games held in 1954 in Vancouver, Canada. Ifeajuna jumped 6 feet 8 inches to set a Games record.
Captain Josephine Okwuekeleke Tolefe (1931 -)
Captain Tolefe was born in Ogwashi Uku. In 1961, she became the first female to be commissioned as an officer into the Nigerian Army. In 1963, she was promoted to the rank of Captain. Her career was cut short by the monumental national crisis that engulfed Nigeria in the mid to late 1960s. She left the Nigerian Army in February 1967.
Sir Louis Mbanefo (1911 -1977)
Sir Louis Mbanefo chalked up a number of firsts in his remarkable life: First Igbo lawyer when he was called to the bar in 1935; first Igbo judge to be appointed to the Supreme Court in 1952; first Chief Justice of the Eastern Region of Nigeria in 1961; first Nigerian appointed to the International Court of Justice in 1962, and first and only Chief Justice of Biafra.
Ada Priscilla Nzimiro, MD (1923 -1951)
Dr. Nzimiro was the first female Nigerian doctor. She trained at the University of Glasgow from 1945 to 1950. Dr. Nzimiro’s life was unfortunately cut short when she passed away in 1951, just a year upon her return to Nigeria.
Professor Chike Obi, CON (1921 – 2008)
Professor Chike Obi received a Ph.D in Mathematics in 1950 from the famous Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). He was the first Nigerian and African south of the Sahara to receive a doctorate degree in mathematics. He taught mathematics at the University of Ibadan and at the University of Lagos. Professor Obi was the founder of the Dynamic Party, which was among Nigeria’s pre independence political parties, and was a member of Nigeria’s delegation to England for discussions on Nigerian independence.
His Eminence Cardinal Francis Arinze (1932 -)
Cardinal Francis Arinze was ordained a Catholic priest in 1958. He received a Ph.D in Theology in 1960. In 1965, at 32 years of age, he became the youngest Catholic bishop. He was elevated to an Archbishop in 1967 and to the rank of Cardinal in 1985. Cardinal Arinze was a principal adviser to Pope John Paul II, and was in serious consideration to be appointed Pope John Paul’s successor during the 2005 papal conclave that elected Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger who became Pope Benedict XVI.
Blessed Cyprian Michael Iwene Tansi (1903-1964)
Father Tansi was ordained a priest of the Roman Catholic Church in 1937. He later became a Cistercian monk at Mount St. Bernard Monastery Abbey in England in 1950. Before then, Father Tansi had served with distinction in Igbo land where he spread the mission of the Catholic Church with great success. Tansi lived at the St Bernard Monastery where he passed away in 1964 and was buried there. In 1986, his body was exhumed and taken home to Nigeria. During a welcoming ceremony at the Onitsha Cathedral, as his coffin was brought up the aisle, a woman dying of stomach cancer touched the coffin and her cancer was instantly cured. This miracle was the basis for Father Tansi’s beatification by Pope John Paul II in 1998. Blessed Tansi, the first and only Nigerian to be beatified, is one step away from becoming a Saint when a second miracle is proven.
Cyprian Ekwensi (1921 – 2007)
Cyprian Ekwensi studied pharmacy at the University of London. He was one of the most prolific writers to come out of Nigeria, publishing hundreds of novels, short stories and children’s stories, during a literary career that began in the 1940s. He won the Dag Hammasrskjold International Prize for Literature in 1968. Mr. Ekwensi also served as the Director of External Publicity for Biafra during the Nigeria-Biafra War (1967-1970).
Dr. Felix Oragwu
Dr. Oragwu is a nuclear physicist with a doctorate degree in nuclear physics from the University of Manchester. Dr. Oragwu was a key figure of the famed Biafra Research and Production Unit (RAPU) which locally produced weapons for the Biafran Army. He made significant input in the design, testing and deployment of Ogbunigwe rockets and Ogbunigwe anti tank and anti personnel bombs.
Colonel Edwin Njoku (US Army)
Colonel Njoku is the first native born African to rise to the rank of Colonel in the United States Army. Born in Mbaise, Nigeria, he moved to the United States in 1971 and enlisted in the US Army in 1985. Colonel Njoku is a specialist in nuclear science and radiological physics and has served in various capacities, including Deputy Chief of Professional Services, Nuclear science Officer, and Director of 2nd Med/63rd RSC Emergency Medical Response to Weapons of Mass Destruction training program. Colonel Njoku was decorated with a Legion of Merit (LOM ) award by President Barack Obama.
L: Gideon Emenike; R, Chima Nwafor
Gideon Emenike and Chima Nwafor were 16 and 17 years of age respectively in 2013 when they made and launched a rocket into space. They aimed to perfect a rocket before building a satellite they planned to launch into space. The rocket flew for 5 miles before crashing in someone’s backyard. The police quickly arrived at the scene and initially thought terrorists had struck the location. The device was later traced to Gideon and Chima. Gideon placed second in 2 national science and technology competitions for secondary school students and was selected to represent Nigeria in a Youth Science Olympics, but was later inexplicably dropped. We suspect he was a victim of corruption and cronyism. His hard earned spot was probably sold or given to some Big Man’s son or daughter.
Editor’s Note: The Gallery Evaluation Committee devoted more time considering the nominations of these young men than it has on any other nomination because of their age and thin resume of accomplishments. In the end, the committee voted to approve of the nominations in recognition of the talents of Igbo youth and to encourage them to excel in their chosen fields.
Chinedu Echeruo is a Harvard educated and highly successful tech entrepreneur. He founded Hopstop.com Inc, an online transit guide for 140 metropolitan cities across the world. Hopstop was bought by Apple Inc in 2013 for $1 billion. Chinedu is from a distinguished family of high achievers. His grandfather, the late Eze Echeruo, was a traditional ruler of Umunumo, Mbano, Nigeria and served variously as the first African Principal of a missionary secondary school (Stella Maris Secondary School, Port Harcourt in the 1950s ), first African Chairman of Shell Petroleum, and a regional government minister in the 1960s. Chinedu’s father, Professor Michael Echeruo, is a distinguished scholar and currently the William Safire Professor of Modern Letters in the English Department of Syracuse University.
Governor Peter Obi, CON. (1961-)
Peter Obi is a 2 term governor of Anambra State. Following university education at the University of Nigeria Nsukka, Obi embarked on a highly successful business career, establishing a number of businesses. He has considerable interest in banking and retailing. As Governor of Anambra State, Obi is credited with great strides in the development of the state. Obi’s centrist political philosophy relative to Nigerian political practice is the reason many project him as a future Nigerian President of Igbo extraction. Obi currently serves as the Chairman of the Nigerian Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC.
Dr. Patrick Ifeanyi Uba. (1971 -)
Ifeanyi Uba is the quintessential self made man. Hailing from a humble family, he came through the famed Igbo Apprenticeship system. After several years as a young apprentice under the tutelage of business owners, he struck out on his own and by the age of 19 had become a successful auto spare parts dealer with business interests in several African countries. He became one of the biggest dealers in tyres. By 2001, he had branched into the oil and gas industry, establishing Capital Oil and Gas Nigeria Limited. Capital Oil grew to become one of the biggest distributors of petroleum products in Nigeria. A great philanthropist, Dr. Uba has built hostels and ICT centers for a number of universities in Nigeria. He built a Cathedral for the Catholic Church in his native Nnewi. Dr. Uba is the owner of the Ifeanyi Uba Football Club, and is the financier of a multi million dollar stadium and sports complex currently under construction in Nnewi.
Dr. Innocent Chukwuma, OFR (1961-)
Innocent Chukwuma is the Chairman CEO of Innoson Motors, Nigeria Limited, the first indigenous vehicle manufacturing plant in Nigeria. Dr Chukwuma started out as an auto spare parts dealer then branched out into motorcycle imports and sales. He single handedly brought down the price of motorcycles in Nigeria by more than 100% through a creative businessman’s acumen of importing knocked down parts and reassembling them. Thus a 40 foot container was filled with 200 units of knocked down parts as opposed to 40 completely assembled in the same container. His Innoson Auto plant manufactures a range of models, as well as several sophisticated engineering systems and components. The company recently signed a contract with the Nigerian Air Force to produce brake systems for the Air Force’s fighters. s
His Excellency Evan Enwerem (1935-2007)
Evan Enwerem qualified as a lawyer in the United Kingdom. He established a highly successful practice before embarking on a career in politics. He rose to become the Governor of Imo State in 1991 and served a brief tenure because the Nigerian military seized power in 1993. Chief Enwerem was elected a Senator in 1999 and served as the First Senate President of the Nigerian Fourth Republic.
Dr. Paschal Dozie (1930-)
Paschal Dozie is one of the most highly successful bankers to come out of Nigeria. He was educated at the prestigious London School of Economics and at City University, also in the United Kingdom, where he earned a masters degree in econometrics. Dozie established Diamond Bank and ran it for several years as CEO. Diamond Bank is one of the biggest banks in Nigeria. Dozie is a co-founder of African Capital Alliance, the largest private equity firm in West Africa with investments across Africa, including Union Bank of Nigeria. Dozie serves on the boards of several corporations, including MTN Nigeria where he is Chairman. Dozie is the recipient of honorary doctorate degrees from several universities.
Dr. Bennet Ifeakandu Omalu (1968-)
Dr. Omalu is a forensic pathologist and neuropathologist. His trail-blazing research linked chronic traumatic encephalopathy with the violence of American Football, particularly hits to the head in the course of long careers in the sport. Dr. Omalu is also a professor at the University of California, Davis’ Department of Medical Pathology and Laboratory Medicine.
Senator Arthur Nzeribe (1938-)
Arthur Nzeribe qualified as an engineer in the United Kingdom in the late 1950s. He went into business after his university education and by the age of 29, had made his first million. In 1983, he was elected a Senator of the Federal Republic under the platform of the Nigerian Peoples Party (NPP). Nzeribe returned to full time business when the Second Republic was overthrown by the Nigerian military in December 1983. In 1999, Nzeribe was among those elected to serve in the Senate of the Fourth Republic. He was reelected in 2003. Nzeribe is currently retired from politics and spends most of his time running his vast business holdings in the UK, the Middle East and in several African countries.
His Excellency Samuel Onunaka Mbakwe (1929-2004)
Sam Mbakwe was educated in British universities. He was called to the English Bar in 1959.Thereafter, he established a successful law practice in Port Harcourt. Mbakwe, like his fellow Igbo ethnics, evacuated Port Harcourt during the Nigerian Civil War. The Biafran Leader, Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, appointed him a Provincial Administrator and posted him to Okigwe Province. Mbakwe returned to legal practice at the end of the war in 1970, setting up a practice in Aba. In October 1979, he was sworn in as the first popularly elected executive governor of Imo State. Mbakwe’s administration (October 1979 – December 1983) in Imo State became the benchmark for exemplary public service. His accomplishments (many deteriorated from lack of maintenance by several incompetent successors) dot the landscape of Imo, where he is deeply revered.
Dr ( Senator) Obi Wali (1932 – 1993)
Dr. Obi wali was a high achiever from Ikwerre land. He was educated at the West African Peoples Institute Calabar, St Augustine’s Secondary School, Nkwerre, the University College Ibadan, and in the USA where he earned a doctorate degree. Dr. Wali became a lecturer at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. In the Second Republic in 1979, he was elected a senator from Rivers State under the platform of the Nigerian Peoples Party (NPP). Dr. Wali worked tirelessly for the creation of Port Harcourt State, a dream which was realised in 1996 when Bayelsa State was carved out of the Old Rivers State and the rump state, which included the territories proposed for Port Harcourt State, retained the Rivers State name. Dr. Wali was murdered in cold blood in 1993 and his murder remains unsolved.
Christian Chukwu (1951 -)
Christian Chukwu captained the Enugu Rangers Football team for a stretch of the 1970s into the early 1980s. He led the national team, then known as the Green Eagles, to its first African Cup of Nations Championship in 1980. Chukwu also coached the national team from 2003 to 2005. He has coached in Lebanon and in Kenya.