Indeed the end of an era of Igbo/Biafran irredentism: in memory of Dr Chief Dozie Ikedife OON.
Onye ka ikoro ya n’aku ifea? Onye ka ikpa ya n’aku ifea? Onye ka igede ya n’aku ifea? Okwa so dike ka ana akuru udi nkwa ma obu egwu aa. Asi kwa no Dr Chief Dozie Ikedife, Ikenga Nnewi, Ikuku ebu mkpu. Okoooo!!! Miri ezogo n’ajofia! Anyi ga eme aghaa? Nwoke mbuba teghete anaa! Hewu! Ya diba! It is with every sense of responsibility that I write this tribute to a tower of our time. I met Dr Ikedife in 2012 while we were preparing for the International Colloquium on Igbo Question: Before, During and After Biafra. But I have heard of him during his presidency of Ohaneze. We (Prof. Uzodinma Nwala, Prof. Nat Aniekwu and myself) went to Nnewi to seek for his endorsement for the colloquium. In his office at the Ikedife Hospital Nnewi, I saw a man who had zest and zeal to actualize any good thing Igbo. He immediately put a call through to someone that he felt was necessary to the discourse in question. In a giffe someone came in and I thought that I had seen a ghost. No one knew the kind of uneasy feeling I had as he came in. The man increased my trepidation and heart beat when he started talking. Ikenga thundered at him; ‘Akpunwa’ and he replied Ikenga. This was Debe Ojukwu. The exchange of chemistry that existed amongst us immediately led to an invitation extended to us to attend the afiaolu festival of Ndi Nnewi for the year. On the said day, we went first to obu Umudim where we had some deeper discussions on the essence of the colloquium. Debe was so happy and revealed to us that his father Dim Emeka Ojukwu had told him that Igbo emancipation will only come with the synergy of Igbo intelligentsia with the other groups.
Indeed, that was the beginning of a relationship with Ikenga Nnewi in which his exit has left a gap in my heart. Having bought into the colloquium, he swung into action such that he arranged for our team to address the South East Elder’s Forum that Ikenga was its chairman. The date was fixed and Prof Nwala and I was to go but Prof couldn’t get a flight and I was asked to address the august gathering of those revered elders that included the amazon of our time Chief Mrs Marie Okwo, Elder Dr K U Kalu CON, Prince Emeka Onyeso etc. It was at Dmatel hotels Enugu. Fate had it that I found myself going to address the elders in the company of Nnandi Kanu and Arinze Awogu. I was called in first and Chief Innocent Nwoga was chairing the meeting. After, presenting my message, Ikenga Nnewi moved that I be made an honorary member of the elders forum. Then Kanu came in with his message of undiluted Biafran emancipation and enthronement. It was so forceful that Chief Nwoga left on the excuse that he wanted to ease himself but Ikenga was excited and invited Kanu and I to Nnewi. He showed uncanny courage. Ikenga made sure that the colloquium was a success. It was at the last day of the three-day event at the Enugu residence of Prof Barth Nnaji that ADF was birthed and Ikenga became its BOT chairman.
Through out these periods Ikenga never left us in doubt as to his love for Ndi Igbo and Biafra. For instance in 2012, himself, Gen Achuzia, Justice Ozobu, Chief Debe Ojukwu, Bishop Enyioha and others have instituted a case at FHC 1 Owerri to make case for Biafra reinstatement via legal means.
I learnt several things from him these almost five years of close working relationship with him. Barely a year ago he had invited his darling ADF to witness his celebration by Otu nchekwa Oha at Enugu. As people gave testimony on his person, I raised hands to address the audience but could not as the event was getting very late. I went to Nnewi and promised him to send my own to his watsap promising him that it was ideal that we celebrate our own while they lived.
Unfortunately, am making part of it public as my eulogy to mark his triumphant exit. He made me behave as if there are no further time left for any other thing. He told us in 2012 that he was on the departure lounge having parked his bags & awaiting final departure. I recall that he was always prompt in attending meetings and had never slept over without going to Nnewi. I thought that as a medical doctor, he was always minded to caring for his patients but this was not all. He reminded me one day at the DMGS premises at Onitsha that he could not leave his girl (pronounced gal) friend. This gal friend was Ikenga’s pretty wife. What a family man? I had never visited Nnewi without prompt attention: by June this year, I had gone to his hospital with Prof Nwala and a certain nurse came with a folder of a sick person; when I told him to attend to them, he reminded me that he had served Nnewi for over 55 years and that the liberation of Igbo- Biafran was uppermost in his mind.
What a level of commitment to ones people? That day he told us that he was having stomach health challenge namely indigestion but would use the opportunity of ADF USA tour for medical check up. Prof Nwala assured him of our prayers for his quick recovery. He laughed and rejected such prayers; assuring us that he had done his best and that he was happy should it be God’s will to allow his exit.
Ikenga made newspaper headlines every time there was need to speak for Ndi Igbo. I remember in 2015 a certain controversial headline credited to him that he was APC after he had gone to visit Buhari in the company of Generals Ike Omar Sander Nwachukwu and Mommah. There were barrage of condemnations and aspersion against him and having known him the much I did I went to Nnewi. On arrival, he heartily welcomed me and said he knew why I came. That it was because of the ugly headline and I denied but assured him that I was passing bye and found it irksome to pass by without paying courtesy visit but that was my reason for coming.
He told me that he went to see Buhari at the instance of Dr Ogbonnaya Onu. It was at the time we thought that PMB was going to appoint an Igbo SGF. He showed to me the text of his press statement that was given such misleading headline. I left very happy and satisfied.
So many people have given lots of testimonies of Ikenga such that we can never exhaust our feelings. Is it his towering achievements as Ohaneze PG- he left office immediately his tenure expired? Is it in the medical profession or community rulership? I must not fail to note Ikenga’s profession of African Traditional Religion (ATR). He believed even unto death that there is nothing wrong with the Igbo mode of relating with God. In fact, as an anthropologist, he felt that ATR is of its own right better than Christianity as practitioners of ATR were more puritanistic. Then came the last week of his sojourn here. I had called Prof Nwala on a certain Wednesday and was told that he was with Ikenga. He further told me that it appeared that he has recuperated reasonably and will leave for Nnewi the following day. In the evening of Thursday, I called him to ascertain whether he was home and how he fared. He said, ” Prof am back but was told by the doctors that I was in very bad shape”. I retorted that they are human doctors and that we shall continue to pray for his quick recovery. He laughed and told me that I should add the number of years that would be extended into mine as he has done his.
I assured him that I was going to come to see him by this Christmas. He said okay in a cynical way that only dawned on me by Tuesday evening when Dr J N Agbo called to break the ugly news. True to who he was, he instructed to be buried the following day at sun set when dikes are buried. On reaching to his house by past two in the afternoon, the atmosphere was charged with classical music. I joined the sage Chief Mbazuluike Amaechi, Dara Akunwafo of Ukpo till Ikenga was lowered.
Now that you have transited, I pray that you get befitting helpers to lighten your way at the great beyond. You are now a worthy ancestor. I am celebrating you with my gun salutes. Gaa ijee gi nke oma dike.
Dr Dozie Chukwuokolo