First is Last

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"First Is Last" is a poignant tale by Cyril U. Orji set during Nigeria's civil war in the late 1960s. It follows the residents of 34 Chukwuani Street in Coal Camp, Enugu, showcasing the struggles of the Igbo people. After a devastating pogrom, the Igbo secede, creating Biafra. Nigeria launches a military offensive to bring them back. Amid the chaos, Ifeyinwa (Ify) and Chinelo, from 34 Chukwuani Street, form a remarkable bond.

The once thriving Igbo community loses power and influence. The families of 34 Chukwuani Street flee, moving between refugee camps with their belongings in head bundles. Bombings and attacks on Enugu devastate the Igbo, including the Coal Camp residents. Over 30 months, civilians suffer starvation and kwashiorkor.

Desperate, the Biafrans trade "behind enemy lines" to survive. The story follows the 34 Chukwuani families as they adapt, even resorting to living as bushmen. "First Is Last" captures the struggles and resilience of the Igbo during Nigeria's civil war, emphasizing the power of friendship and endurance in the face of adversity.

cyril u orji

author info

Cyril is retired after over 20 years in the industry as a software engineer with telecommunication companies and defense contractors and nearly 15 years in academia as a computer science professor.

Cyril's formative years were in Enugu, Nigeria, where he attended primary school. His experience with the American way of life started when he entered Government Comprehensive Secondary School, Gborokiri, Port Harcourt, Nigeria. This was a joint high school project between the then Government of Eastern Nigeria and the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). But the express train to UCLA was derailed by the Nigerian civil war, 1967-1970.

When the war started, Cyril returned to Enugu, where his father, stepmother, and other family members lived. Cyril’s mother died in 1959, relatively early in life, when Cyril was very young. When Enugu fell, the family left Enugu together to an Arochukwu settlement called Aro Ehuhe in Achi, near Awgu. After a brief stay at Aro Ehuhe and Awgu, the family separated. Cyril went to Oguta to join one of his elder brothers working there. Unfortunately, Oguta also fell, and Cyril and his elder brother reunited with the rest of the family in a refugee camp in Ovim. From there, the family returned to Aro Aguobu Owa behind enemy lines.

During the war, Cyril did not serve as a soldier. Instead, on their return to Aro Aguobu Owa, his elder brothers joined the BOFF (Biafran Organization of Freedom Fighters), which operated behind enemy lines. Cyril took on the responsibility of being the primary breadwinner for the family. He participated in the "Afia Attack," a risky endeavor for his elder brothers, who could be mistaken for Biafran soldiers by Nigerian troops, and his elder sister, whom the Nigerians could abduct.

At the end of the war, Cyril completed his high school education at St. Teresa's College, Nsukka, unable to return to his pre-war school at Port Harcourt. After graduating high school, Cyril worked for the Nigerian Posts and Telecommunications (P & T), which sent him to the United States for further studies.

Cyril earned a BS (College Honors), Electrical Engineering, an MBA, an MS, Computer Science, and a Ph.D., Computer Science, all from the University of Illinois, Chicago, Illinois. He is married to Adanma (nee Ada Ohiaeri), a registered nurse. Cyril and Adanma are naturalized citizens of the United States and are blessed with four adult children, Uzoma, Obinna, Uzoamaka, and Uchenna. They have an incredible daughter-in-law Monica and three amazingly beautiful granddaughters – Naomi, Kaiya, and Zaria.

Cyril is an attentive observer. He enjoys talking about politics and writing short stories based on everyday observations. His debut book, "Lamentation: An Immigrant's Dilemma," is a fictional chronicle of the experiences of an immigrant bringing up a family in the diaspora.

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