Nigerian Civil War Survivor Earns Ph.D. From Howard University at 73

Nigerian Civil War Survivor Earns Ph.D. From Howard University at 73

Florence Nwando Onwusi Didigu
Image vis Howard Newsroom

Obtaining an advanced college degree is no easy task and depending on the field of study, it can take years to complete. For Florence Nwando Onwusi Didigu, age was not going to stop her from receiving her Ph.D. in communication, culture, and media studies from Howard University. 

The 73-year-old Nigerian-born student worked as a Sasakawa and Annenberg Fellow overcoming numerous obstacles to get to this point from battling sickness and dealing with family deaths.

“In my second year at Howard, and very close to my screening test, I lost my mother and my father within months,” said Didigu in an interview with the Howard Newsroom. “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.’”

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,” is a testament to that strength focused her story as a a Igbo women who survived the war.

“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,” she said, according to Howard Newsroom.

“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!”