At age 73, Florence Nwando Onwusi Didigu has proven it’s never too late to accomplish yet another goal: earning her doctorate in Communication, Culture and Media Studies as a member of the Howard University Class of 2020.
Didigu’s dissertation and future book, both titled “Igbo Collective Memory of the Nigeria – Biafra War (1967-1970): Reclaiming Forgotten Women’s Voices and Building Peace through a Gendered Lens,” is a reflection of the Igbo women who, like herself, survived war. As the oldest of five sisters, she graduated this weekend from Howard armed with her fourth degree and as a prestigious Sasakawa and Annenberg Fellow.
“In my second year at Howard, and very close to my screening test, I lost my mother and my father within months,” Didigu said in an HU interview. “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.’”
Didigu, who was once a producer and writer at the Nigerian Television Authority, and a broadcast regulator at the National Broadcasting Commission in Nigeria, said her life’s work is to elevate more Igbo women’s voices. “[There was a time when] I was unable to speak clearly; this was the greatest tragedy of all, since I was teaching a sophomore research course,” she said. “The day I started speaking again and was discharged from the hospital was a special life moment.”
Didigu now plans to become a professor and book author and to continue research and scholarly writings. She also wants to mentor students.