For Florence Nwando Onwusi Didigu, age is the last thing that will stop her from accomplishing her goals, and receiving her Ph.D. in communication, culture, and media studies from Howard University at 73-years-old, is proof.
The Howard Newsroom announced that the Nigerian-born student 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,” which is a reflection of the Igbo women who survived the war.
While matriculating through school, she overcame several hurdles to earn her fourth degree — as a Sasakawa and Annenberg Fellow — including shingles and 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. “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.’”
However, this achievement comes 50 years after Didigu also survived the Nigerian-Biafra War which occurred between the Igbo people and the Nigerian government—her biggest obstacle.
“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!”
Upon graduation, Didigu plans to become a book author and professor.