Meet Florence Nwando Onwusi Digidu, the 73-year-old who has not allowed her age stop her from achieving a life long goal. She is now a graduating member of Howard University’s Class of 2020 earning a doctorate in Communication, Culture and Media Studies.
She defended her dissertation titled “Igbo Collective Memory of the Nigeria – Biafra War (1967-1970): Reclaiming Forgotten Women’s Voices and Building Peace through a Gendered Lens,” on April 26, which is based upon her personal experiences as a survivor of the Nigerian Civil War, as stated in an official university statement.
Being the oldest of five sisters, completing her fourth degree as a prestigious Sasakawa and Annenberg Fellow, Didigu says she is thankful to have made it across many hurdles.
In my second year at Howard, and very close to my screening test, I lost my mother and my father within months. I had to return to Nigeria each time to perform the demanding burial ceremonies for each. I was completely deflated, both physically and emotionally, but I persevered because my father always wanted me to be a ‘Doctor.’
Apart from surviving the Biafra war, she also won a battle with shingles which caused paralysis on the right side of her face and robbed her of her voice. She told Howard that the obstacle (shingles) was actually “symbolic because it’s her life’s work is to elevate more Igbo women’s voices too”.
According to her, the Nigerian-Biafra War which happened over 50 years ago, is one challenge she will never forget.
The day the Nigeria-Biafra War ended, I, like everyone was wallowing in anxiety and fear about what would happen to us as the vanquished,” explained Didigu, who was once the broadcaster regulator at the National Broadcasting Commission in Nigeria.
A very optimistic gentleman came over to me and asked: ‘Why are you so sad; can’t you see you have survived this terrible war?’ I stood up, even though the Nigerian Airforce was on its last bombing raid, and leaped up in the air in mad glee, repeating to myself and others: ‘Yes, I have survived, I am a survivor!’ This powerful survival instinct in me, which I call daring, and God’s help, are what made me overcome all personal challenges during my doctoral program and get to where I am today!
Photo Credit: Howard