Published online by Cambridge University Press: 07 August 2020
On May 30, 1967, Sir Louis Mbanefo brought a new country into the world. Mbanefo was a widely respected judge, known to the Nigerian public as the chief justice of the Eastern Region. To his peers in the judiciary, he was a formidable moralist – a “black Englishman” who “did not mix well at parties” as one would recall. A Cambridge education, a successful law practice, a knighthood, and a term on the International Court of Justice were all behind him. Ahead of him was an uncertain future. A photo taken that day shows Mbanefo, weighed down under his robes and wig, taking an oath from a man thirty years his junior, clad in military fatigues and an unruly beard. The country established that day through a series of decrees and rituals was the Republic of Biafra, and the soldier being sworn in to lead it was Lieutenant Colonel Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu.