Wife of late Biafra warlord, Dim Emeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu is set to immortalise Bruce Mayrock, the 21-year old martyr who set himself ablaze opposite the
Wife of late Biafra warlord, Dim Emeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu is set to immortalise Bruce Mayrock, the 21-year old martyr who set himself ablaze opposite the United Nations building to draw attention to the genocide perpetrated by Nigeria and five world powers against the Biafran people.
Bruce Mayrock, a student at the School of General Studies and a sports photographer for che Columbia Daily I Spectator, died after he set himself on fire in front of the United Nations to protest the war in Biafra. According to witnesses, two United Nations guards spotted the flames and chased the youth across the lawn with fire extinguishers. But Mayrock eluded the guards, racing in front of the North Lounge of the building before several hundred horrified delegates and onlookers.
The student finally fell to his knees beside a statue bearing the Biblical inscription “Let us beat our swords into plowshares and the guards extinguished the flames. Mayrock was rushed Bellevue Hospital where he was listed in critical condition with burns all over most of his body and was pronounced dead shortly after. At the U.N., guards found a large cardboard sign on the front lawn which said, “You must stop the genocide–please save 9 million Biafrans.” At the bottom of the sign, a quotation read, “Peace is where there is an absence of fear of any kind.” I
Members of Mayrock’s family stated that he had worked actively to protest the war in Biafra, writing letters about the war to the President and leading government figures. However, the student believed that no one was listening.
“He was an idealistic young man deeply upset by the events in Biafra. People were being killed and he felt no one was doing anything. That’s why he did what he did,” a close family friend said rabbi said.
To that effect, Mrs. Odumegwu-Ojukwu has erected a gallery in memory of the Late young Mayrock at Nnewi, the home town of her husband. To throw more light on the course of the initiative, she wrote a piece titled “Project Mayrock: A Promise Fulfilled” presented below:
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 had 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.
It is our hope that the surviving brothers of Bruce Mayrock will attend the ceremony. 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 Ndujekwu…We started this journey together.
Gallery built in memory of the late Bruce Mayrock
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…thatwWe 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.
A bust of Bruce Mayrock at the gallery
Reacting to the project, a historian attached to the project commented:
“This is selfless project being handled by HE Mrs. Bianca Odumegwu-Ojukwu. I had an extensive discussion with her on this. It’s such a pity that no State Governor from South East had deemed it fit to immortalise this young man who killed himself for the Biafran cause. Bianca needs our support; she says she’s not asking for financial help but that we should let Ndigbo be aware of this sacrifice.
“She also requested to have authentic old pictures of Biafran families during the war. She said the curators would blow them up and put in the gallery. Ndigbo from the diaspora are identifying with the project. The Israeli parliamentarians will be attending the commemoration of the project. Mayrock was Jewish with a family, two brothers, a sister and aged mother, or parents can’t remember, survive him. We cannot forget this Biafran martyr.”