The death on December 11 of renowned physician and foremost Igbo leader, Dr. Dozie Onyeanusi Ikedife, is undeniably a great loss. For 55 unbroken years, the late medical icon bestrode the medical and political fields like a colossus. In life, he meant many things to many people and doggedly held on to the causes that ruled his life. A cursory look at his eventful life underscored the words of the famous American actress and humanitarian, Angelina Jolie, that “our experiences, good or bad, make us who we are.” Early in his life, he chose the path of medicine, backward integration and cultural nationalism and stuck tenaciously to them till his death. He was unwavering in his commitment to the fine ethos of a great Nigerian enterprise.
Ikedife invested his fecund intellect in the pursuit of these goals, and these won him friends across the nation. Before the bugle sounded in Nnewi, the land of his birth for indigenous entrepreneurs with businesses and other concerns located elsewhere, to “relocate and think home,” he had done so decades ahead when in 1970, he transferred his hospital from Aba to Nnewi. He was the first chairman of Community Council in Nnewi, from 1972 to 1975.
Also in acknowledgement of his patriotic zeal, his people conferred on him the chieftaincy title of “Ikuke Ebu Nkpu” in 1980. The unprecedented award came from 14 towns in Nnewi North, Nnewi South, Ekwusigo local government areas of Anambra State. The title of Ikenga Nnewi, the most popular, followed in tow. This clearly marked him out as a pathfinder imbued with vision. Ikedife understood and demonstrated in his activities and political commentaries that “the thing worse than rebellion is the thing that causes rebellion.”
He, therefore, often looked out of the window in his modest resolve to have “a humane, restructured nation that will hold all the peoples on equal pedestal and development at their own pace.” His tenure as President-General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo saw a revitalized body, strengthened by unity and common interest. He believed through his leadership and in the words of Buddha that “peace comes from within. Do not seek it without.” Despite the strains and foibles that ruled his life in the assiduous pursuit of his passions, he neither winced nor danced like weasels. No doubt, the Ohanaeze leader lived a good life. As a pioneer member of the Igbo intelligentsia, he taught his admirers that discontent is the first necessity of progress; that you judge a man by his questions rather than his answers. It was in tandem with his beliefs that he shunned full-blown partisan politics and rather confined himself to socio-political issues of the day which he believed would engender peace, amity, development and progress in Nigerian. It was for this reason that he always stretched his hands of fellowship from his base to other Nigerians of like minds to join in his struggle.
Born in August 1932, Ikedife attended Nnewi Central School, 1939-45, Dennis Memorial Grammar School, Onitsha, 1946-50. He was also educated at the City College, Norwich, England, 1952-53, University of Glasgow, Scotland, 1958-59. As a memento to his rich and rewarding life of service, it is noteworthy that he established “Dozie Ikedife Annual Medal” and prize for the Best Graduating Medical Doctor from Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka in 1995.
It is also instructive that he endowed the “Dozie Ikedife Prize” for Best Student in Community Health from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, in 1988. At a time when western values supplanted the old and indigenous culture, Ikedife kept faith with the former and demonstrated that much by giving his seven children indigenous names. Ikedife will be remembered for his role model as a medical doctor and political commentator. His contributions to the restructuring of the country are insightful. We call on the government to immortalise the deceased for his contributions to nation building. We sympathise with his family, friends, Anambra State and Nigeria for the great loss. May God grant his soul eternal repose.