1960, Jaja Wachuku, Nigeria’s Ambassador to UN slept during UN meeting for being ignored
Jaja Anucha Wachuku, a Royal Prince of Ngwaland and “descendant of 20 generations of African chiefs in the Igbo nation of Eastern Nigeria,” was a Pan-Africanist, Nigerian leader, lawyer, politician, diplomat, and humanitarian who lived from January 1918 until November 7, 1996.
He was the first Nigerian Speaker of the House of Representatives, as well as the country’s first Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the United Nations. Wachuku was also Nigeria’s first Minister of Foreign Affairs.
Meet Jaja Wachuku, Nigeria’s first United Nations Ambassador. In 1960, his news rotated around the world for “sleeping” at a United Nations meeting.
But here’s the catch:
He wasn’t sleeping; he had been denied the opportunity to express his dissatisfaction with a racial remark, so he pretended to be sleeping and ignored the entire talk.
Notably, Time magazine labelled him “Nigeria’s dynamic U.N. Ambassador,” claiming that “Nigeria, less than two months after winning its independence, is on its way to becoming one of Africa’s major forces” due to his deserving, very lively and enthusiastic diplomatic style with a lot of energy, wisdom, and determination: “Nigeria, less than two months after winning its independence, is on its way to becoming one of Africa’s major forces.”
Wachuku served as the first indigenous Speaker of Nigeria’s House of Representatives from 1959 to 1960.
Wachuku became Nigeria’s first Minister of Foreign Affairs and Commonwealth Relations in 1961. Wachuku held the position until 1965. Prime Minister Balewa served as the country’s foreign affairs advocate before to Wachuku’s appointment.
He also played a role in preventing Nelson Mandela from being hanged by the apartheid government of South Africa.
Wachuku died in the late morning of Thursday, November 7, 1996, at the University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital in Enugu, at the age of 78. Wachuku’s nephew, author Ugoing to Wachuku, penned a poem titled “Some Memories Never Die” as a tribute to his uncle. Time published a story and news report titled “Pride of Africa” on Wachuku and his diplomatic activities at the United Nations on October 20, 1961.