“If you would not be forgotten as soon as you are dead, either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.”
See Barrister P.O. Balonwu, quoting Benjamin Franklin; Toast of DMGS Old Boys Association on their Golden Anniversary Onitsha Nov. 3 – 9, 1975
Plutarch, the greatest biographer and chronicler of all time, employing his extraordinary writing gifts, presented to the world the most precious book. Submerging the gulf between Literature and History, Plutarch, through his exciting episodes, employing a most vivid narrative, fascinating anecdotes interspersing those with gravitating commentaries concepted a new biographical form.
In his “LIVES of the NOBLE GRECIANS and the ROMANS – PARALLEL LIVES, Plutarch’s theme of pairing and comparing great Romans with their equally great Greeks succeeded to pass to us some moral and heroic impulses.
The rich epochs depicting the rise of the Greek and Roman civilizations, hilariously proclaimed as the Grandeur of Greece and the Splendour of Rome, found historical status in the chronicle of Plutarch, whose masterpiece biography compared the extraordinary antics and the epics of those heroes during their lifetime.
The hero is as old as human memory. To all peoples, at all times, the hero has symbolized a particular ideal of behaviour. Yet, the hero cannot be accused of perfection. His weaknesses are often as pronounced as his virtues. Like Achilles, he may be courageous, a great warrior but he is also arrogant and selfish. Like Ulysses, he survives through cunning, which is not too scrupulous.
What then distinguishes the hero? The Greeks called it “the possession of the Arete quality.”
It is a quality of energy expressed in choice. Among oppressed people, this conscious decision to choose between alternatives, and to choose the improbable one of standing up to the strong is the Arete, the essential quality of the hero.
His Titanic Majesty, Prof. Chike Edozien, was born great. It was his conscious determination and aspiration to read medicine at a time when the training to be a doctor was draconian. After his sterling qualification, he had the choice to seek green pastures and probably practice abroad, taking care of himself and immediate family. However, his return and destination to Ibadan, precisely, Adeoye Medical Hospital, was the fulfillment of his decided mission. To join the University College at Ibadan and to facilitate the teaching of medicine and enriching the medical faculty to facilitate multiplicity of more trained clinicians. To prove that black Africans could jolly well heal the patient either by the orthodox medicine or by the old traditional therapies.
Professionally, Chike, who was the first president of the African Students Association in the UK, before Independence, was the dean, Faculty of Medicine, UCH. He was the brains behind the founding of the University of Benin.
After the collapse of Osadebay’s tenure, he was invited by Governor Ogbemudia, who finally established UNIBEN. Also, he was involved in the establishment of the Enugu Teaching Hospital, UNN.
Prof. Chike Edozien’s matchless academic and professional accomplishments have been given space in two chapters; one dealing with his tenure in Ibadan, up to his appointment as the dean. The other chapter discusses his involvement in the founding and teaching in other Nigerian and other world universities, Faculty of Medicine and his Pro Chancellorships.
As noticed, Chike, like other gifted eggheads, would have remained a teacher, a professor and, like his colleagues, would have been constrained in the academia. Like the Greeks have explained, His Titanic Majesty’s Arete, the time, and the cataclysmic political events in the country of the mid 1960s put him on the spot.
According to the first African published poet, and the first and last Premier of the Moribund Midwest –
“Warriors shall come from East and West.
Warriors shall come from North and South –
Your Land shall be a battle ground
And many will die in a brutal war
And many will rush and flee across
The Niger River to the East
(see Osadebay Poems of a Nationalist 1970, Pp. 152)
Mbelede Ka Iji ama Dike. (The hero emerges in times of emergencies).
The blight and the bloody hurricane that decimated Asaba, October 1967, also affected the Edoziens. General Obasanjo, the Ibadan Garrison Commander, saved Chike’s brother, the late Prof. Emma Edozien, in UI, 1967, from execution by Federal soldiers. But Prof. Chike Edozien was the Senior Medical Supervisor to the then Head of State, General Aguiyi Ironsi. He was also the practitioner who had helped Emmanuel Ifeajuna when the Commonwealth gold medalist was preparing for the Commonwealth Games in Ottawa, Canada, 1954. Ifeajuna was the leader of the January 15 coup.
In Ibadan, like when he was in the UK, Prof. Edozien had naturally taken over as the leader of the Anioma Igbos. January 15 coup, which eventually established Ironsi as the Head of the State, was entirely a military affair of which Ndigbo were not privy to. Unfortunately, it was misinterpreted as an Igbo coup and the Igbos who actually single-handedly brought about Nigeria’s Independence were maligned and in July 1966 and after genocide was unleashed on them and their leading elites were marked for elimination.
Prof. Chike Edozien’s run for his life and incredible Atlantic Ocean escape from Oron, 1 a.m. to the Cameroons is a climatic milestone of this biography, which in many ways defines his Arete. This professor, the favourite son of Okafor Edozien, the “Aka Mgba”, (the Champion Wrestler) of his generation, battled his way, ran for his life from Ibadan to Asaba, to Enugu and found a lonely boat on the Atlantic seaport of Oron and sailed to safety to the Cameroons. From the Cameroon, he landed in Paris at Nigeria’s Ambassador’s door. Ambassador Uwechue’s onerous task of seeking reconciliation among the civil war protagonists was as a result of this August meeting.
From Paris, Prof. Chike Edozien flew into America and there told the world the story of the Biafran agony and massively helped in the courageous food aid to the starving Biafran children. His wife, a Yoruba Princess, and children, like most of the escaping families, had to find their own way into the Biafran heartland without their father.
In his dog-eared letters, correspondences with his favourite uncle Isama Ajei Edozien, my father wrote and prophesied about Chike the C.K.C. protégée of his great uncle, Chief N.O. Edozien, African General Manager of the Coal Corporation, Enugu. My father, who referred to the young Chike as the NWANZE… meaning the one precocious child who in our tradition has to be ever cultivated and always given his space, allowed more independence. Nwanze is that particular child that is expected to rule after his father.
From those saved archives and of course from the mouth of the Agu, the last Titan’s peers:
1. Dr. Okechukwu Ikejiani
2. Prof. Cyril Enwonwu
3. Prof. Chimere Ikoku, (Africa’s only member of the Black Panthers)
4. J.B. Clark
5. Jide Alor
6. Samy Ibe
I can now put on the garb of Africa’s most famous poet, as I brace up to be elected into Royal Olinzele ancient Asaba Senate Fraternity. Emma Okocha can as well stand with Okigbo and Kraal the verses; this authorized biography of the LAST TITAN, “I’m The Sole Witness To My Homecoming.”
Whatever is the verdict of history, Prof. Chike Edozien would be remembered as one of the most outstanding traditional kings. His most enduring memorial remains that he is a Living Legend, and one of the few shapers of thought of the 21st century. A man of an uncommon ancestry, uncommon education, uncommon intell.ectual brilliance; he is an ornament, an acquisition to a variety of public causes generally bending and seeking solace for the oppressed and downtrodden. He speaks his mind with the Olympian disregard of any censure or consequences.
On his receiving the staff of office, Prof. Chike Edozien struck at history with such an impact that the Titan split into two the Asaba annals: Asaba before Chike Edozien and Asaba after the Last Titan.