By Emman Ozoemena
In November 2018, I was in Anambra State and in fact, around the domain of Eze Professor Chukwuemeka Ike, Ikelionwu XI, for several weeks.
Even though my primary reason for going to Orumba was to conduct a scooping assessment for a client – an aspirant to a political office seeking to represent the area.
While in Orumba, I passed through Ikelionwu town, one of the unmisssable towns in Orumba North. My thoughts were why don’t I stop by to see Eze Ikelionwu? I had hoped that somehow there will be opportunity to visit the town in course of my work. But as you know how field work turns out atimes, the opportunity never came until I left Anambra back to my base.
Last Sunday, the thought of Eze Ikelionwu was on my mind. I thought about our dear brother, Prince Osita Eze and his son. I reflected about a post by Chief Uche Ezechukwu, a notable leader from Anambra State sometime last year on the whereabout of the heir to the Ikelionwu throne, late Prince Osita’s son. Oga Uche had raised concerns that the young boy needed to be around for sake of throne of his forefathers. I totally agreed with his submission on the issue.
My thoughts were just on Eze Ikelionwu, whom I had the opportunity of meeting in the books but yet to meet in flesh and blood. I read virtually all his books from fiction, steeped in key events in the society or his life
In his post-service memoir, ”Expo ’77′” – he masterful deployed his prowess in fiction to narrate his experience as the Registrar of the regional public examination body, West African Examination Council; the leakage of exam question papers that brought the cancer to our public examination space over four decades ago.
I recall in June 2017, while a guest on radio – Nigeria Info FM 95.1 Abuja – with the anchor, Kimberly Nwachukwu and Fortune Agule Musa. The conversation was on crisis in the nation’s public examination system. I had recommended that public officers read thoroughly the memoir of Prof. Ike on WAEC condensed in Expo ’77.
After the programme I realised that my copy of the book which I purchased around 1990s was no longer available. Obviously, someone I can’t recall who borrowed it did not return the book. I searched for a replacement from bookshops in Abuja but unable to get until a thought crossed my mind. ‘Call Odushote Bookshop Lagos.’ I was happy that two copies of the book were delivered to me via their Abuja office just within two days. I gifted one copy to my sister, Kimberly, of Nigeria Info FM station.
Another instance, I can’t forget was his interview with Quality Magazine a softsell genre published by Newswatch magazine in the quake its proscription by General Ibrahim Babangida’s regime. In one edition in 1987, if my memory serves me right, Prof Ike was in his elements.
He shared his familiar WAEC expo story, his involvement in the civil war during 1967 – 1970, in the defunct Biafra Republic, where he served as one of the high-level advisors to Chukwuemeka Odumuegwu Ojukwu, while his wife an Ibadan Princess, Professor Bimpe Ike, worked as a volunteer.
Prof Ike narrated how difficult it was to communicate with his in-laws in Ibadan, Western Region from the Biafran enclave. He and the wife relocated from Ibadan to the East when the war broke out. They would sent letters to Ibadan through the global volunteer body, Red Cross International. Letters going to Ibadan, Nigeria were first taken to Zurich, Switzerland, the headquarters of Red Cross and then brought back to Ibadan, Nigeria.
The process took several weeks and months to be accomplished. Such was the price of the conflict that both sides of the divide in the war had to pay – families, kith and kin so close, yet separated by miles away.
I kept my copy of that Quality magazine with the interview for a long time until a friend in my university who studied English and Literary Studies (ELS) borrowed it and never returned it. But it was a masterpiece interview.
When the news broke of the passage of the revered traditional ruler and academic, I broke down in tears. I told myself that an Iroko had fallen in the Ikelionwu Kingdom. An Iroko has fallen in the Nigeria’s academic space. An Iroko has fallen in Igboland. A highly respected traditional leader has joined his ancestors on the other side of eternity to continue in the supplications for the good health, fruitful harvest and peace in our communities.
I feel sad for myself for the missed opportunity to visit Eze Ikelionwu in November 2018. I will live with the regret for a long time. I am trying to forgive myself, but it is rather hard.
For now all am able to say is, Eze Ikelionwu, Prof. Chukwuemeka Ike, naa n’udo. Jee Nkeoma. May our ancestors welcome you with the big drum and flute meant for only heroes. For you indeed, within the four scores and eight years here on this side of eternity did the Igbo People, Nigeria and Africa proud. Eze Ikelionwu, Prof. Chukwuemeka Ike, ka chi foo! (Goodnight)
Emman Ozoemena is a public policy consultant.