Jaja Wachuku was Nigeria’s first United Nations ambassador. He came into the limelight in 1960 after he was captured sleeping during a United Nations meeting. In real sense Wachuku wasn’t sleeping but was disappointed after he was denied a chance to air his views in the meeting and so he pretended to be sleeping and ignored the entire session.
News of his sleeping during such an important meeting spread across the world with prominent figures at the time terming him a hero for ‘fighting’ against racism. Time magazine highlighted his story labeling him as Nigeria’s dynamic U.N. Ambassador.
The Wachuku sleeping incident happened two months after Nigeria gained independence. This brought a lot of debate across the world with Times magazine interpreting the action to mean that Nigeria was on its way to becoming one of Africa’s major forces, “due to its deserving, very lively and enthusiastic diplomatic style with a lot of energy, wisdom, and determination.”
Beside being Nigeria’s First Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Wachuku was also the country’s first Minister of Foreign Affairs and commonwealth relations. He also served as the first speaker of the House of Representative from 1959 to 1960.
Wachuku is also remembered for having played an important role in preventing the hanging of Nelson Mandela by the apartheid government. Wachuku hailed from a family of 20 generations of African chiefs in the Igbo nation of Eastern Nigeria. He lost the battle in 1996 at the age of 78 at University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital in Enugu.