Catherine Onyemelukwe

Author, Blogger, Speaker

Humanitarian Crisis

Humanitarian Crisis

WFP Marco_Frattini's amazing photo of humanitarian crisis

WFP Marco_Frattini’s amazing photo of humanitarian crisis

The former ambassador to Nigeria John Campbell is at the Council on Foreign Relations. He writes about much of sub-Sahara Africa. He has written before about the humanitarian crisis in Nigeria.

He had two recent posts I want to share.

First, the Oslo Humanitarian Conference was held Friday, February 24 in Norway. It was convened,” to draw global attention to the humanitarian crisis in Nigeria and the Lake Chad Region, mobilize critical resources needed to effectively confront it, and to address the medium-term and long-term development needs of the fourteen million people in the region. Ambitious goals!

I also wrote in November about the humanitarian crisis. It has only become worse. The Oslo Conference is one answer.

Nigeria’s government officials took part. So did representatives from Norway, Germany, and the United Nations. According to the post, “the conference produced pledges totaling $672 million, with more commitments to come.”

Millions have been displaced by Boko Haram. Their stories are sad and they are desperate for support. These commitments will help.

Now Nigeria has the task of using the funds well! I hope John will report on how the commitments come in, and what they fund.

You can listen to a podcast of the blog post.

Former Minister Goes on Trial

Diezani Allison Madueke from Premium Times Nigeria

Diezani Allison Madueke from Premium Times Nigeria

The second post was also sad. President Buhari has made rooting out corruption a major goal, along with defeating Boko Haram.

Both are huge tasks.

One of those targeted in the corruption investigations is the woman who was Minister of Petroleum Resources under former President Goodluck Jonathan.

Diezani Allison Madueke will be tried for money laundering in the United Kingdom in June,” says an article in Sahara Reporters. She has been accused of owning a huge number of properties in Nigeria and abroad, including in Dubai. Soon after the last election which Jonathan lost, she left Nigeria for England. Her enemies say she ‘fled.’

“The NCA [National Crime Agency] found some of the ex minister’s brothers and other business partners complicit in the money laundering allegation. She was arrested with her brothers,” the article said.

I also read about her in Campbell’s blog. “Seemingly arrogant, greedy, and vain, Diezani’s public persona in a poor country evokes disdain,” he said.

I remember feeling proud when she was Nigeria’s Petroleum Minister and became the first woman to head OPEC.

She claims to be innocent.

Woman of Note for Women’s History Month

Maria Mitchell, astronomer and Unitarian, taught astronomy at Vassar in the 19th century. I became familiar with her when I worked at the Maria Mitchell Observatory in Nantucket, the summer of 1960. We studied variable stars.

Maria Mitchell portrait by Herminia B

Maria Mitchell portrait by Herminia B, Maria Mitchell Association

She was born in Nantucket in 1818. Her parents were Quakers. They assured her of an education equal to that of men.

Her father was the school principal where she attended. He began teaching her to use his telescope. By the time she was 12, “she had already been assisting her father calculate” the time of an eclipse, the article says.

In 1842 she became a Unitarian. “She protested against slavery and to show her efforts, she stopped wearing clothing made of cotton,” according to the article. I wonder what fabric she wore?

“After her discovery of ‘Miss Mitchell’s Comet’ in 1847, she gained popularity worldwide. . . Today, the designation of this comet is C/1847 T1.”

“Maria Mitchell was the first ever American woman who worked as a professional astronomer,” I find in this article about famous scientists.

She was hired by Vassar as their first professor in 1865. She was also the director of the Vassar College Observatory. With other noted women she formed the American Association for the Advancement of Women and was its president.

In addition to the observatory on Nantucket, there was a World War II Liberty ship, the SS Maria Mitchell, named for her. The original Vassar Observatory and a crater on the moon were also named for her.

She died at the age of 70 on June 28, 1889, a year after retiring from Vassar.

Speaker for Retired Men’s Association of Greenwich

I will speak on Wednesday March 15 for the Retired Men’s Association, RMA, of Greenwich. You can read about the talk here.

It is from 10:40 to noon, at the First Presbyterian Church, Lafayette Place, Greenwich, CT. Would love to see you there!

WGCH, 1490 am, a local Greenwich station, does a weekly radio interview on Monday mornings with the speaker who is appearing that week at the RMA. The program is “The News Center with Tony Savino.” I’m told the interview is about five minutes, focusing on my presentation and background.

Listen in if you can! The live broadcast is aired from 8:51 to 8:56.

My program is “Nigeria Past and Present.”

I think I’ll talk about the Nok culture, since Henry Louis Gates spoke about it in Great African Civilizations last week.

Nnami Azikiwe, one of Nigeria's founders

Nnami Azikiwe, one of Nigeria’s founders

Then from the 1500’s on, slavery, colonialism, and independence. Maybe I’ll focus on Zik, whose name some of the retired men may remember.

And since? The Biafran War of course. Coups and counter-coups. Achebe? I certainly have to talk about Boko Haram and the Chibok girls.

And the present? Adichie? Nollywood? Elections, recession? I can’t cover it all, so between now and Monday morning I’ll decide on the most important points to highlight in the talk, and mention them in the radio interview.

What are your suggestions? (If you’ve made comments and I haven’t responded, it’s because I haven’t seen them. Try responding to the email. My sister has made comments several times that I haven’t seen!)

Author: Catherine Onyemelukwe

Author, blogger, speaker. Born in New York, grew up in mid west United States, lived in Nigeria for 24 years, back in U.S. since 1986. Advocate for racial justice.


  1. I am glad to hear of the pledges coming form the conference in Norway. Also glad to know about Maria Mitchell. I’m proud of our Unitarian and Universalist forebears. And congrats on your speaking engagement.