Nwankwo, Victor 1944-2002

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NWANKWO, Victor 1944-2002


Born December 12, 1944, in Ajalla, Nigeria; died of gunshot wounds, August 29, 2002, in Enugu, Nigeria; son of Emmanual O. and Janet (Ikejiani) Nwankwo; married Theodora Ndigwe, 1979; children: Uzoma, Oby, Ogo, Ral. Education: Attended Yaba College of Technology; University of Nigeria, graduated, 1971.


Author; Federal Ministry of Works, assistant technical officer, 1962-63; Ove Arup and Partners, design engineer, 1971-74; Brunelli Construction Company, design engineer; Maiduguri Airport, assistant project manager; Cubitts Nigeria, head of design, 1975-76; Joart United Construction and Engineering Ltd, director of production, 1976-78; Fourth Dimension Publishing Company, founder/managing director, 1984-2002. Military service: Biafran Army, Engineers Squadron, combat officer.


African Books Collective, African Publishers Network (chairman), Nigerian Publishers Association, African Book Publishing Record, African Books Collection (member of council of management), Nigerian Book Foundation (board of trustees), Book Aid International (trustee), Nigerian Society of Engineers.


Der Weg Nach Udina, translated into German by Ruth Bowert, Afrika-Presse Dienst (Bonn, Germany), 1969, published as The Road to Udima, Fourth Dimension Publishers (Enugu, Nigeria), 1985.

(Contributor and coeditor, with Chinua Achebe) The Insider: Stores of War and Peace from Nigeria, Fourth Dimension Publishers (Enugu, Nigeria), 1971.

Also wrote a daily newspaper column.


Although Victor Nwankwo was an author of a book of fiction and frequent contributor to a daily newspaper, he was best known around the world as a promoter of books, especially books written in Africa. As described by Hans M. Zell in the online publication, the Bellagio Publishing Network Newsletter, Nwankwo was a "bookish person and an avid reader," who adapted to the world of books with ease. Although he had been the editor of his school's magazine, Nwankwo had studied to be an engineer. In the early part of his career, he worked as an engineer, but his passion for books seemed to overtake him. In 1977, he and his brothers pooled their money and started a publishing house called Fourth Dimension Publishers. Nwankwo worked at the publishing house only on a part-time basis, at first, because he was enjoying a successful career in engineering. But seven years later, Nwankwo found himself running the family publishing business practically by himself and was soon to be hailed by an international community of peers as one of Africa's leading publishers.

Nwankwo was born in Ajalla, Nigeria, and educated at the University of Nigeria. His education was interrupted by war in 1967 when the Igbo people of eastern Nigeria proclaimed independence from the rest of Nigeria. The war raged for many years as the Igbo people attempted to set up a nation they called Biafra. During this time, Nwankwo joined the Biafran army as a writer for the army's publication called Biafra. Later, he served on the frontline as a combat officer in the Engineers Squadron. In 1970, the civil war ended, and after hiding for several months in fear of reprisals against him by the Nigerian troops, Nwankwo returned home and completed his degree in engineering.

After college, Nwankwo took on several jobs in his trade, working for various construction companies. Then when his brothers, Aruther and Ejiofor, began discussing a publishing house, Nwankwo took an interest in the enterprise and helped them set up the Fourth Dimension Publishing Company. The name of their company came from insights the brothers had learning during the war. As Nwankwo told Katherine Salahi, also writing for the Ballagio Publishing Network Newsletter, "the experience of war taught us there were more than the three physical dimensions of life. The fourth coordinate is the human spirit that's needed to make change in the life of a nation."

Nwankwo's life began to change rather dramatically in 1983, when the political climate in Nigeria worsened, and, in consequence, the economy suffered, lessening the number of construction and engineering projects available. In the meantime, Nwankwo's brothers had both become involved in politics and had little time to tend to the publishing house. So that was when Nwankwo stepped in, applying, as he told Salahi, his "engineering mind into the organisation."

Books were nothing new to Nwankwo, who was used to reading a novel a day. He had also written poetry, a daily newspaper column on life in Nigeria, and a novel. But the publishing end of the business was relatively new to him, and as he told Salahi, "I was largely trained by my staff." It did not take long, however, for publishing to become his passion. He had learned early the power of words. Through his publishing house, he allowed many other Nigerian voices to be heard. "I've discovered you can contribute more by writing than through political activity," Nwankwo told Salahi. He planned to return to his writing upon retiring from the publishing business. Nwankwo was only fifty-seven when he was shot down in front of his home, in what many have called a political assassination.

In the late 1960s, Nwankwo wrote a book he called The Road to Udima. In it he recalled his experiences during the Biafran war. In his obituary in the London Times, Nwankwo's book is referred to as "unusual in its portrayal of the corruption and propaganda of the Biafran Army." The original manuscript of this book was taken to Germany by a journalist who liked what he had read. The book was first published in German, although it had been written in English. The original manuscript was then lost. But in 1985, Fourth Dimension had the German edition translated back into English and published their own version of Nwankwo's novel, which Zell described as a book that "captures the fears and emotions of Biafran society during the civil war and tackles corruption and other issues not normally mentioned by the Biafran propaganda machine." Before his death, Nwankwo also coedited a collection of short stories about the war and subsequent peace. He also contributed a story of his own to this collection, called "The End of the Road."

Nwankwo died on August 29, 2002, of gunshot wounds.



Bellagio Publishing Network Newsletter,http://www.bellagiopublishingnetwork.org/ (October, 1998), Katherine Salahi, "Talking Books, Chief Victor Nwankwo in Conversation with Katherine Salahi"; (November, 2002), Hans M. Zell, "In Memoriam: Chief Victor Nwankwo."



Bookseller, October 11, 2002, Tim Rix, Gary Pulsifer, "Obituaries," p. 11.

Publishers Weekly, September 30, 2002, Sally Taylor, "Nigerian Murder Draws Concern," p. 18.

Times (London, England), October 25, 2002, "Obituaries."*