From Emmanuel Uzor, Abakaliki
It was a day of honour for Eze (Prof.) Chukwuemeka Ike, the Ikelionwu XI of Ndikelionwu, Orumba North Local Government Area of Anambra State, as the School of General Studies and Continuing Education, in collaboration with the Paragon and Pacesetters, recently organised an international conference to celebrate him.
Ike and his wife, Prof. Adebimpe Olurinsola Ike, arrived at the auditorium of the Federal Polytechnic, Unwana, Afikpo North council, Ebonyi State, amid cheers from students and teachers.
As the octogenarian writer and novelist led his wife into the hall, the audience stood up to catch a glimpse of the famous author of many novels, like :The Bottled Leopard” and “Sunset at Dawn.”
During the conference, many issues were raised, prominent of which was the perceived marginalisation of the polytechnic as a middle level manpower provider in the country.
Speaking during the conference, the acting Dean, School of General Studies and Continuing Education, Dr. Ngozi Anyachonkeya, described the conference as the first of its kind in the school organised to eulogise Ike for his contributions to literature and creative writing.
He said that the conference was to celebrate the literary icon by way of assessing him as a relevant writer from the backdrop of the quantum of his publications and thematic coverage.
Anyachonkeya described Ike as one man in African literature whose 12 literary publications dot the landscape of the continent, adding that as a seasoned university administrator and registrar of the West African Examination Council, WAEC, for nine years, Ike has achieved tremendous feats in the education sector.
“He also published sociological works. He is not only a proud son of Nigeria of Igbo decent, but also a citizen of humanity, who occupies an enviable position in the intellectual hall of fame,” he said.
The acting dean lamented that, over the years, polytechnics have been treated with scorn and he called for a review of the Polytechnic Act to reflect the importance of the institutions to the nation’s education sector.
“Sincere and concerned academics and patriotic stakeholders of our tertiary education yearn for immediate education reform. In view of the incontrovertible impact polytechnic education makes in technological and vocational education, it has become expedient to restructure the education setup,” he said.
He called for the total abolition of the various clauses in the Act establishing the polytechnic, urging fair treatment for the graduates of the institution.
“Our prayer to the Nigerian government is that the Polytechnic Act should be amended, expunge the offensive, unfortunate, belated and anachronistic clause establishing the polytechnic as ‘institution of middle level manpower,” he said.
He also called on the Federal Government to convert the Federal Polytechnic, Unwana, to Akanu Ibiam Federal University of Science and Technology so that the late Akanu Ibiam would be immortalised.
Chairman on the occasion, Prof. Egwu U. Egwu, described Ike as a professor of professors, recalling his landmark achievements as the head of WAEC.
“This is the man that signed most of our WAEC certificates, including mine. His presence has come to give us hope that hard work pays and pays very well. Prof. Ike, through his works and publications, tried to answer various questions confronting society and proffered solutions to same,” he said.
Earlier, in his welcome address, the chairman of the local organising committee, Rev. Fr. Felix Onwukike, described the first international conference on Prof. Ike as timely, especially now “that creativity is taking a centre stage in nation building.”
He described Ike as an accomplished humanist and renowned university administrator, commending him for his contributions to literature in Nigeria.
“Prof. Ike is a legend worthy of being celebrated in an intellectual forum in which we are gathered today. The subject matter of his literary publications addressed practically all areas of life on human affairs, on man’s foibles and failings, which the society should read and adjust to,” he said.
In his remarks, the rector of the Akanu Ibiam Federal Polytechnic, Dr. Ogbonnaia Ibe-Enwo, said the conference was apt to address various issues affecting society through the application of solutions of Ike’s publications.
“Our hosting of this landmark event in the history of tertiary education in Nigeria is significant in the sense that the status of our tertiary institution must be reviewed such that all the discordant notes that cause hiccups and bring disparity in the nation’s ivory towers must be expunged from the golden book of our tertiary education in the country,” Ibe-Enwo said.
“Prof. Ike deserved copious studies in view of the diverse issues he addressed and documented in his literary publications. I urge the conference delegates from the intellectual community to brainstorm and come up with insightful intellectual material that will eventually result in critical work collated in Festschrift and book of readings in honour of this living avatar,” the rector said.
Responding, Ike thanked the Akanu Ibiam Federal Polytechnic, Unwana, especially the School of General Studies and Continuing Education, for the honour done him and his wife.
He said that, as a man, he saw many challenges that would confront society as captured in his works, saying that the country and society shall be renewed through positive thinking anchored on self-realism.