Ojukwu had been ill foe some time and had been on admission in a hospital in the United Kingdom.
He was born on 4 November 1933 at Zungeru in northern Nigeria to Sir Louis Phillippe Odumegwu Ojukwu, a businessman from Nnewi in the south-eastern part of Nigeria. Sir Louis was in the transport business; he took advantage of the business boom during the Second World War to become one of the richest men in Nigeria.
In 1944, Emeka was briefly imprisoned for assaulting a white British colonial teacher who was humiliating a black woman at King’s College in Lagos. By the time he was 13, his father sent him overseas to study in Britain, first at Epsom College in Surrey after which he bagged a Masters degree in history at Lincoln College, Oxford University. He returned to Nigeria in 1956.
Emeka Ojukwu was one of the first university graduates to join the Nigerian Army. He was promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel in 1964 and posted to Kano, where he was in charge of the 5th Battalion of the Nigerian Army. He was in Kano, northern Nigeria, when Major Patrick Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu on 15 January 1966 executed and announced the bloody military coup in Kaduna, also in northern Nigeria. It is to his credit that the coup lost much steam in the north, where it had succeeded. Lt. Col. Odumegwu-Ojukwu supported the forces loyal to the Supreme Commander of the Nigerian Armed Forces, Major-General Aguiyi-Ironisi. Major Nzeogwu was in control of Kaduna, but the coup had flopped in other parts of the country. He surrendered.
General Aguiyi-Ironsi took over the leadership of the country and thus became the first military head of state. On Monday, 17 January 1966, he appointed military governors for the four regions. Lt. Col. Odumegwu-Ojukwu was appointed Military Governor of Eastern Region. Others were: Lt.-Cols Hassan Usman Katsina (North), Francis Adekunle Fajuyi (West), and David Akpode Ejoor (Mid West). These men formed the Supreme Military Council with Brigadier B.A.O Ogundipe, Chief of Staff, Supreme Headquarters, Lt. Col. Yakubu Gowon, Chief of Staff Army HQ, Commodore J. E. A. Wey, Head of Nigerian Navy, Lt. Col. George T. Kurubo, Head of the Air Force.
On the 30th day of May 1967, Colonel Odumegwu-Ojukwu declared Eastern Nigeria a sovereign state to be known as Biafra. The declaration led to a civil war which ended in 1970.
Ojukwu fled to Ivory Coast where he was granted political asylum and he was there until the Shagari government granted him pardon in 1983.
On his return, he continued his cause for the advancement of the Igbos. He joined the All Peoples Party in 1999 and later formed the All Progressives Grand Alliance which he led till he passed on.