“As a leading official of the Society for Promoting Igbo Language and Culture, which I founded in 1949, I did not spare them in my speeches”
“I decided to produce manuscripts for the publication of books that could meet my students’ needs. Unfortunately, neither Rev. Solaru’s O.U.P. nor any other publishing house would accept manuscripts in Igbo, not even Thomas Nelson and Sons, which now publishes a number of my works. In the fifties and sixties, publishers discriminated against Igbo, even though they were publishing freely in Hausa and Yoruba. As a leading official of the Society for Promoting Igbo Language and Culture, which I founded in 1949, I did not spare them in my speeches, newspaper releases and articles. That was why, when the first publisher to appoint an Igbo editor to his staff did so, he had to write, appealing to me to minimize my attacks. The point I am making here is that because publishers (almost all of them Ibadan-based) discriminated against Igbo, I was forced into publishing.
“In 1957, I established my own printing press, the Varsity Press, in Onitsha. I was compelled to do this because of the immense delays I suffered at the hands of printers. There were also many disagreements over quality of paper and binding, typefaces (most of which were battered), outright suspension or cancellation of works already in progress without notice and regard to the fact that the deposits I paid were eked out of my meagre salary.
“The Varsity Press contributed a great deal in paving the way for me, because I could influence the quality of paper and work done and time of delivery. In fact, that printing press could have probably grown into one of Nigeria’s biggest book manufacturing and printing presses were it not that it was completely burnt and razed to the ground during the Nigerian Civil War. Woodpecker says that after his parents die he will break off the trunk of the apü tree, but after they have died, a boil grows in his mouth. It was resuscitated with a hand Adana purchased without rollers from a printer who had, before fleeing as a refugee, hidden it in the ground at Amawbia.”
The reason one chews a chewing stick is so that the ear can begin to dance. The press provided outlets for many Igbo writers who, otherwise, might have remained unpublished and unknown. In fact, some of the most successful Igbo books in different genres came out of the press. They include works like Ude Odilora’s moralist novel, Okpa Aku Eri Eri; E. Obike’s longest published Igbo epic poem, Eke Une, J. Munonye’s picaresque novel, Aghirigha, and several others. If the hand holds the spoon, the mouth is overjoyed. Tortoise says that his brothers did something good when they sewed him a coat of iron.
Born on July 20, 1927, to Michael Obiefuna Ogbalu and Elizabeth Nwamgbogo Ogbalu of Adagbe, Abagana, in Njikoka Local Government Area, Anambra State, Fred, as he was fondly called by his childhood friends, had his primary education at St. Peter’s Central School, Abagana, where he obtained the First School Leaving Certificate with distinction in 1940. Early the next year, he proceeded to Dennis Memorial Grammar School (D.M.G.S) Onitsha where, in addition to his studies, he joined the Society for Promoting African Culture (S.P.A.C), founded by a perceptive and farsighted teacher, National Ohiaeri. It was this society which gave him some stimulating glimpses of the significance and meaning of African culture, and particularly of Igbo culture.
He later displayed a brilliant performance at the then Senior Cambridge School Certificate Examination held in November-December, 1944, where he passed in Grade 1 with what was then known as exemption from London Matriculation. That is to say, he passed at a sitting, a prescribed combination of subjects at the level required for direct admission into London University or to any other British University. The pear says that he caused the rich man to eat ashes.
On leaving the secondary school, he entered the Teaching Training College at Awka, where he obtained the Higher Elementary (Grade ID Teachers’ Certificate with a number of merits in 1946). In 1953, he obtained the then Nigerian Senior Teachers’ Certificate in Geography and History. The following year (1954), he achieved a degree of the University of London in Economics as a private candidate.
After leaving the teacher training college, he was posted to teach at Ubulukwu in present-day Delta State in 1947, later to his Alma Mater, DMGS (1948) and much later to St Augustine’s Grammar School (S.A.G.S), where in 1949, he and his friends and colleagues founded the Society for Promoting Igbo Language and Culture (SPILC). One whose house is burning does not hunt rats. The Society was to be one veritable instrument with which he was to register most of his achievements for the language and culture of the Igbo people for the rest of his life.
“Anybody with the least acquaintance with Igbo literary history in the twentieth century will agree that from the forties up to now, and perhaps for some time to come, a huge, pervasive and perhaps infectious Ogbalu factor runs through the period,” Prof. ‘Nolue Emenanjo, remarked. For Prof. Ernest Enyonu, “Mazi F.C. Ogbalu sowed the seeds of Igbo Language and cultural studies, and they fell on good soil.”
The corpse in the ground told the flute player that he heard him, but the clay soil would not let him get up, so wrote Ogbalu in Ilu Igbo.