By Chike Anyaonu
I got to know about this name, Bruce Mayrock, some four years ago through Barrister CHUDI Ofodile’s book titled The Politics of Biafra: and The Future Of Nigeria and published by Safari Books Limited, Ibadan in 2016. Ever since then, I have been trying to dig deeper and deeper into the archives to learn more about this young altruistic, dynamic and benevolent personality. An enigma of sorts, for that matter.
Ofodile had, in chapter seven of his book, cited Bruce as one of “Biafra’s non- Igbo actors”, those who participated in one way or the other to fight the cause of the ill-fated Republic of Biafra that were not of Igbo origin. One of them who is still alive today is Wole Shoyinka. Though this write up is a kind of joint tribute to all of them, Bruce Mayrock, for me, deserves a special and everlasting mention.
He was not an African, but a citizen of the United States of America. So what concerned a 20-year-old university student in America with what was happening in far away Africa then? He had probably hoped that his action would direct the attention of his country, nay the entire world, to halt the carnage in the Eastern parts of Nigeria during the civil war.
He had the option to remain in the comfort of his cozy University of Colombia hostel and chose not to know or see, just like many others who knew and saw but did not speak out. He demonstrated love and hatred.
Love for humanity, hatred for injustice. Injustice against the shells being dropped, through air raids, on the civilian population in the Biafran enclave comprising mainly defenseless women and children, all wallowing in the sorry and deplorable condition of all manners of afflictions, especially starvation and diseases.
On that fateful Friday, May 30,1969, Bruce Mayrock appeared in front of the United Nations building in New York where world leaders had gathered for a summit. Within moments, in the full glare of hundreds of onlookers, Bruce set himself on fire and was reported to have died later the same day. The placards he left behind had inscriptions calling the attention of the world body to the genocide in Biafra.
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This peculiar vehement protest against a conscienceless world that was steeped in deceit and conspiracy against the millions of children of Biafra dying of starvation, and women being raped and murdered or starved to death, was Mayrock’s story. All of these events were rarely or scantily reported by our press instead of being given the prominence they rightly deserve.
Till today, I am yet to come to terms that Mayrock immolated himself out of concern, anger and heartbreak for a people he never knew about other than through media tales and reports of gory and catastrophic of events concerning the people of Biafra. A people denied existence and even voice. They were not his neighbours. Yet he rose to the occasion. His voice, through his peculiar death, was heard in high heavens. That was what my intuition has been telling me ever since, except that those for whom he chose to die instead of living, have not shown him the same love by remembering him in a special way all the time.
In honor of this noble young man, the unsung hero of my generation, this defender of grave injustice against humanity, against the starved-to-death children of Biafra, I had on Saturday, May 30, 2020 trekked a distance of ten kilometers. This will also be for the adoration and preservation of the throne and dominion of God Almighty. Take-off point was Ugwunwasike junction by the expressway, Ogidi. Time was 10am. I had actually planned to visit his grave in far away Mount Arafat cemetery in New York, United States of America, but for the coronavirus pandemic that has caused flight disruptions and restrictions all over the whole world.
Please join me to remember this uncommon young personality. He died to attract the attention of the whole world to the sufferings perpetrated to our generation through deliberate policy of starvation. And, while that was happening, the entire world looked the other way as if those lives never meant anything. And Bruce became heartbroken, and went the way he did.
One day, probably one day, I will live to see a street or an important monument named after Bruce Mayrock in some cities in the South East if not beyond. His action was for there to be peace in Nigeria, not in his country America. Until then, may his amiable and vivacious soul continue to receive mercy and grace of God.
*Anyaonu, a commentator on national issues, wrote from Onitsha