In a matter of weeks, Saturday, December 28, 2019 precisely, history will be made at Christ the King College (CKC), Onitsha as the 1976 set of this great institution plans to give back to their alma mater during their reunion scheduled to hold on that day at the college premises. This is coming forty three years after leaving the school.
The multi-million-naira infirmary, which appears to be about the first of its kind in any secondary school in Nigeria, is designed with the comfort and well-being of the student population in mind. It is meant to improve health care delivery among the student population in particular, even as it is going to be a handy and quick intervention health care system in the school with modern facilities that will include a visiting doctor’s consulting room, pharmacy, boutique laboratory, in-house nurse cubicle, and proper washrooms.
Nothing can be more graciously befitting and commendable than this masterpiece health center, considering the fact that the present two-bed one room sick bay is now grossly inadequate with rising student population driven by the recent all boarding policy of the school. Therefore, the unveiling and handing over of the infirmary project to the management of the school will be the most significant part of the reunion.
At summer time in 1976, a set of students numbering about one hundred and eighty five bade farewell to the school upon completion of their five years secondary education, the climax of which was the writing of the West African School Certificate Examination in May / June same year. Needless to say, that progression of the set into secondary education, just as some other sets before and after it within the then Biafran enclave, was badly interrupted by the Nigerian civil war that lasted for three extremely distressful years. During the war period, educational facilities were practically non-existent, refugee issues resulting from occasional internal displacements of families hardly allowed continuation of education of the Biafran child under the circumstance. That was the setting until the end of the civil war in January 1970.
In January 1972, having been successful in the tough admission examination conducted in December the previous year, these fresh students started a five-year sojourn in the college to learn new ropes and be hopefully equipped with the compass to navigate the journey of life afterwards. During their five-year sojourn in the school, this generation of students particularly, as never experienced by any other before or after it, passed through four principals in yearly succession namely; Rev Fr Nicholas Tagbo (1972), Chief Austin A.O Ezenwa (1973), Rev H. Chiwuzie (1974/75), and Mr Pius Ezeokeke (1975/76). Shortly before the school certificate examination in 1976, Rev Fr Tagbo was posted back to CKC from where he finally retired in 1985.
After graduation from the school, everybody went his way, with hope and determination, in pursuit of different careers. Many made it through universities, polytechnics and apprenticeship in business and some other vocations. A whole lot of the members of the class found their way beyond the shores of the country also, some in this category were even after obtaining their first degrees in Nigerian universities. As time ticked away, that old childhood and youthful memories started disappearing, giving way to the realities and challenges of adult life which include marriage and the attendant family issues. Of the entire members, very many are successful and distinguished in their chosen careers.
Regrettably, as with all mortals, some members of the class, twenty five in number as at the last count, have gone to the great beyond at different times. That was also a critical part of life’s journey, for life itself is a mystery. It gives differently to and at the same time takes away differently too from same sojourners. But for the departed ones, God has been so kind to the members of the class. That alone is worth thanking and praising Him for, and that was one of the compelling reasons for the reunion by the surviving members of the class.
Today, many members are distinguished and renowned in various fields of human endeavours. In academia for instance, the multi-discipline trio of Professors Kenn Nwogu, former Dean of the Law Faculty, and later, Students’ Affairs, Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Chris Ikeji of the University of Calabar and Charles Ichoku of Howard University, USA readily come to mind. In fact, before joining Howard, Ichoku had had a twenty year stint at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, USA, as a Research Scientist. In medicine, Professor Innocent Eze obtained his medical training in Nigeria, United Kingdom and USA and presently lives in California USA where he holds sway as a gynecologist of international repute, while Dr Basil Nwankwo occupies the position of Chief Medical Director at the Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu University Teaching Hospital, Awka. Dr Larry Ozoh, also a highly respected orthopedic and recovery therapist is practicing in Atlanta, USA. There are also Dr Osy Ibenegbu Consultant Physician and Dr Ifeanyi Uchendu Consultant Gynecologist and proprietors of thriving private hospitals in Lagos.
Notable legal professionals from the class include Sir Philip Umeh, a former National Secretary of the Nigerian Bar Association, Chiedu Nweke who is also deeply immersed in a flourishing high-end real estate business, Mbanugo Udenze, Sir Eze Joe who retired recently from the Central Bank of Nigeria as a Director and Chief Chike Maduekwe, presently the Chief Executive of Anambra State Physical Planning and Development Agency. Bankers in the class include such names as John Obi and Chief ICP Umeh who have distinguished themselves as Executive Director and Regional Manager respectively, not to mention ace international broadcaster, Charles Aniagolu, variously of BBC, CNN and recently Arise TV who belongs to the set. In engineering field, Engr Uche Okonkwo who retired from Power Holding Company of Nigeria as a Regional Manager holds the baton, so also are Engr Lawrence Uzoeto and Engr Adolphus Olisa Okudo who are entrepreneurs. The class also has the likes of Chief Tony Eze, a highly successful entrepreneur in the Oil & Gas sector, Engr Eyisi Philip of Phillipe & Associates, and Dr Tony Anyakora of the National Pharmaceutical Research Center, Abuja.
In accountancy, Class of 1976 has Patrick Odi Arah, Ifeanyichukwu Nriamah who is the Vicar of the leading Anglican Church in Lagos and Akunne Victor Emodi, a former Executive Director (Finance) in the only private multinational reinsurance company in Nigeria. He presently leads and steers the affairs of the class as its pioneer president, This is just to mention but only a few, for obviously there are very many others who are doing their beats in several other fields, both in the private and public sectors, within and outside Nigeria, bringing honour to the great school and to the Glory of God.
Ironically, many have never set their feet on the soil of the school, even as they have also not had the opportunity of seeing or communicating with one another ever since, until very recently through the use of social media group chats. The thrills and enchantment generated through the social media prepared the ground for the planned reunion. The hunger of reuniting became more compelling at some point, and, within one year, ideas started flowing as to what could be done by the class in appreciation of the institution that moulded them into strong characters and personalities in the society today. The result is the world class infirmary project which the class undertook as a way of giving back to their alma mater, Christ the King College, Onitsha, where they spent their formative years as teenagers.
Things have changed in the school and will continue to change for better, courtesy of the deep bonding among its ex-students, together with their commitment and attachment to this great institution of world class standard, listed among the best one hundred secondary schools in Africa in the year 2012. A secondary school that has produced more governors (comprising the trio of Peter Odili of Rivers state, Mr Peter Obi of Anambra and Willie Obiano) than any of its contemporaries in Nigeria, two princes of the Catholic Church, Francis Cardinal Arinze and Dominic Cardinal Ekandem (RIP), eminent jurists and legal luminaries like Anthony Aniagolu, Chukwudifu Oputa, Chike Idigbe, Dan Ibekwe, and GCM Onyiuke, all of the blessed memory, the school which took the world by storm in 1977 when it won the highly coveted World Schools Football Championships in Dublin, Ireland.
Hon. Anyaonu is the Director,
International Center for Human Development and Rule of Law