Felix Ikem, Nsukka
A sombre atmosphere pervades the campuses of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN) following the death of Igwe, Eze (Professor) Vincent Chukwuemeka Ike, a renowned novelist and administrator who was the first indigenous registrar of the institution.
A large portrait of the deceased legend is currently sitting on a table draped with the flag of the university which has been conspicuously placed at the lobby of the main administrative building at the Nsukka campus of the university.
Staff, students and guests of the university would pause to look at the portrait. Some take some time to sign the condolence register, while others move on shaking their heads in shock and sorrow.
Professor Ike joined his ancestors at the age of 88, on January 9, 2020 at Nnamdi Azikiwe Teaching Hospital, Nnewi after a brief illness.
His last visit to the University of Nigeria, where he started his career as a foundation registry staff, was in October 2019 when he served as the Chairman of the 59th Founders’ Day Lecture of the University.
Reacting to the news of his death, the Vice-Chancellor of the UNN, Prof. Charles Igwe reiterated that the history of the University of Nigeria would not be complete without the prominent mention of Professor Ike.
”He played a very significant role in ensuring that the University of Nigeria was reopened after the civil war; thus, we owe him lots of gratitude”, the VC said.
He lamented that death had stolen from the university, an administrative sage whose informed counsel will forever be missed by the university.
The vice-chancellor further prayed to God to grant eternal rest to the soul of the departed novelist and promised that the university would immortalise him by naming a significant project in the university after him.
On his part, the Deputy Vice-Chancellor Administration of the university Prof. Pat Okpoko decried that the implication of Professor Ike’s death “is that the university has lost a knowledge database and a harbinger of information for future generations”.
The erudite professor of cultural tourism described Eze Chukwuemeka Ike as a man of many parts who distinguished himself in all areas of his endeavour.
“He left indelible footprints as the registrar of both the University of Nigeria and the West African Examinations Council. He was one of the stars in Nigeria’s literary firmament, an accomplished academic and a traditional ruler of repute”, Okpoko said.
The Registrar of the University of Nigeria, Dr Chris Igbokwe described the place of Chukwuemeka Ike in the University of Nigeria as that of a patriarch, stating that the University of Nigeria was yet to recover from the shocking news of his demise.
“We are very much saddened because Professor Ike single-handedly raised the University of Nigeria from the rubbles of the Civil War”, Igbokwe lamented, maintaining that the university would waste no time in naming a prominent structure after him.
Igbokwe commiserated with his family, the people of Ndikelionwu and the government of Anambra state for the loss. He prayed to God to “accept the soul of Professor Ike in paradise”.
The Chairman of Senate Ceremonials Committee of the university, Professor Bennett Nwanguma, described the late Professor Ike as a sage who remained modest, humble and accommodating, in spite of his numerous accomplishments.
He recounted his recent encounter with the Igwe as an experience of a lifetime, narrating how the late storyteller, as he was fondly called, held him spellbound while he reminisced over the University of Nigeria in the war years.
“We talked freely about his books, the war years, the zero-hour graduates and his recent advocacy for the spirit of Biafranness, which he explained as the can – do spirit, which enabled our people to come together and build refineries during the war years”.
Professor Nwanguma welcomed the vice-chancellor’s decision to immortalise the sage at the university, adding that the vice-chancellor appreciates that “the labours of our heroes past should never be in vain”, he said
The late Professor Chukwuemka Ike joined the services of the University of Nigeria as an administrative assistant and Assistant registrar in 1957. He became the Deputy Registrar of the university in 1960 and served as the Registrar and Secretary to the Governing Council of the University from 1963-1971.