October 22, 2016

St. Anthony’s College Ubulu-Uku @60: Reviving a glorious heritage

St. Anthony’s College Ubulu-Uku @60: Reviving a glorious heritage


By Tony Eluemunor

In the 1970s, every set of form one students into St. Anthony’s College, Ubulu-Uku, had an unchanging topic as their first geography lesson: “Our Town, Ubulu-Uku”. The first lines were also non-varying: “Ubulu-Uku is a hilly forested village”. So as the school, founded in 1956 turns 60 years old this year (and the alumni celebrates the anniversary today at Ubulu-Uku), the question has to be asked and answered: how did this village school swiftly become one of the best, academically and in sports, in the then Mid-West, Bendel and now Delta States?

Mention any wholesome attainment in academics and sports and St. Anthony’s had achieved it. 100 percent pass in West African School Certificate exam? It first achieved that milestone in 1969; the same year that it won the Mid-West football trophy for secondary schools, beating Edo College, in Ogbe Stadium Benin- City. Her students had severally emerged state’s overall best, starting with Prof Chris Ogbeche (in 1967), now at Lagos Business School and Dr. Evans Jegbefume (an Engineer) – scoring straight “A”s.

In fact, notching up stellar results was so taken for granted that in 1974 the school was thrown into mourning even though the best result was a roaring Grade One – 10 aggregates. But the student, Chike Maduemzie, and St. Anthony’s were special. Chike, a science student had also offered Literature in the exams, and scored C4 in it. So the school lost the straight “A1s” and the best result in Mid-West state which it had expected. He is now a Medical Doctor.



The school emerged Adeola Table-Tennis champions in 1970 with Patrick Ugoji (now a Medical Doctor in Port Harcourt) as Captain; late Chris Okasia, Vincent Onyemem (Demso Baby) and Enujoko, now a Medical Doctor and others remained unbeatable until the competition finally stopped in the 1980s. Obiora Edward, in Lawn Tennis, won a silver medal in the 1973 National Sports Festival; with Otto Edward and Aninye Jonathan winning Silver in Table-Tennis. Aninye was sent out by then Mid-West Gov. Sam Ogbemudia to Shangai, China in 1973 for training, and was relocated to Hussey College on his return to Nigeria; yet Otto Edward beat him when he came to pack his things away from the school!

So, how does one explain the excellence streak? You could sum everything up in one word: “FACILITIES”. The school had over 500 metres by 500 metres field of lush evergreen grass with a football field in it (and space for two more football fields to spare) just behind the school gate and in front of the class rooms. Then it had another standard field after the dormitories. It had two standard Lawn Tennis courts, six Table Tennis halls (one dedicated to each of the five hostels and a massive one with three standard tables) as central one. It had pitches for a Basket Ball, Volley Ball etc. Cricket was even introduced in the early ‘70s under Ukah Macaulay’s captaincy.

So immediately after the afternoon siesta, everyone would troop out for an hour prep (personal studies) and once the bell rings, the 4pm to 6pm games would begin…and the school would really come alive – with young and highly spirited boys playing various games in several pitches. Each hostel had its own soccer pitch attached. But Table Tennis-balls would dominate as every flat surface would become an improvised Table Tennis board.

St. Anthony’s was not really a noted sports power house until a volcanic eruption of energy and merit gained admission in 1961 – five years after the school’s founding. His name: Ifeachichukwude Kensington Olu, from Udo quarters, Ubulu-Uku, but soccer commentators and admirers shortened it to Ifechi. He was the ’65 Games Captain, and like the Zik of Africa, he was an all-rounder, a polyvalent sports man. He was a pole-voter, high-jumper, long jumper and 400 yards champion who was particularly proud of his sprints prowess; he was about the fastest academical in the country. But it was in football that he made his mark, playing left full back for St. Anthony’s and ACB football club, Lagos. Olu later chose academics over sports and left for USA. He got a Masters degree in Geology and later worked in Exxon-Mobil. He was preparing to return to Nigeria in April 2014 but died in March. The then Principal Anthony McDonagh, an Irish Priest who died in 1991, actually sought Olu’s father’s permission to send the boy for professional football tests in UK, but met a staunch no! Olu, until his death rued that missed opportunity.

He had fired the school’s imagination, and there was no going back. By ’69, it won the Giwa Osagie Cup for Mid-West Secondary Schools. That year, four Anthonians (Pele Nwani, Ogbue and perhaps the late Anthony Okonkwo (Buddy Holly) played for Mid-West Academicals, – with Raph Uweche (often confused with the late Amb. Raph Uwechue (from the same Ogwashi-Uku town) at the goal posts. But Uweche, alias “Summersaulting Bastic” is alive and living in New York, USA. Okonkwo died in 1970 in a car accident returning from a Mid-West against Benue-Plateau state match.



In 1970 Hussey College stopped the school at the Quarter-Finals but St. Anthony’s played 1-1 draw with St. Ignatius Loyola College, Ibadan. By then, Mid-West and Western states’ defending soccer champions would play a friendly match. In that match, Loyola’s outside left player, Emma Okwuokei was from Ubulu-Uku. St. Anthony’s goalkeeper that year, Peter Idabor (Idabro) must have met a warm welcome when he came to do his Higher School Certificate at Ibadan Grammar. Idabor and Uweche were the two goal keepers in the1969 winning team. At Ibadan Grammar School, he bested Best Ogedembge (ex IICC, ex-Super Eagles) to become the school’s goal tender and was invited to Western Academicals camp.

Idabor turned his back on sports and gained admission into the University of Jos, and was university goal keeper all his years there; just like Austin Izagbo (Jaguar) a goal keeper the year after Idabor, was between the posts for the University of Ife. Today Idabor is Director General of National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA). His immediate younger brother, late Assistant Commissioner of Police, Julius, was 1972 school goal keeper and short-putter. Izagbo became Delta State Sports Commissioner under Ibrahim Kefas administration.

1971, St. Anthony’s fell to Annunciation College Irrua at the quarter-finals; again. In that squad was Dominic Ezeani, who became a national soccer legend that captained Enugu Rangers and emerged one of the most respected players ever to wear the Super Eagles jersey.

Yes, the school by 1972 had fully dominated all sports in one part of the state, from Agbor to Asaba, while being a serious contender in the entire Mid-West. Between 1970 and 1972 alone, Offili Peter (Alias CKC) was the Mid-West Sprints champion; Uwabor Victor (alias Attila) was national 800 yards silver medalist at the Sir and Lady Manuwa Cup and Hussey Shield competition. Dike Pious, 1972 soccer captain and Mid-West Academical, was part of the relay quartet (with Ojogwu Felix (Odobro, being the Divisional sprints champion) and the same Dike was third in Long Jump in Mid-West.

Yet, as Mr. Chucks Egbe, whose ’69 set won Giwa-Osagie Mid-west state soccer cup and got 100 percent pass in school certificate exam pointed out to me, the school emphasized academics over sports;

even sports stars who were academically weak or of bad behaviour, were rusticated.

Now the glory of St. Anthony’s College, has departed. The debasement started when in 1979 the Ambrose Alli administration, as part of the Obafemi Awolowo led- Unity Party of Nigeria, introduced the devil’s situation where all schools were forced to be equally INGLORIOUS. The boarding house system stopped, entrance examination and interviews no longer mattered as primary six pupils were simply allocated to secondary schools without rhyme or reason. Then to complete the darkness that had descended, all state competitions ceased. Without the boarding house system, school sports facilities began to rot. St. Anthony’s degenerated to the extent that in 1990 it lost a soccer match to Ubulu-Unor Mixed Secondary School, a school this Reporter never heard of until I began to write this piece. It was an Aniocha LGA only completion; the statewide one had ceased to exist! The no room for excellency policy of the UPN, which the succeeding military regimes could not reverse, had damaged the school.

St. Anthony’s never joined some Benin Schools such as Ehosa Grammar School, Western Boys, New Era, etc in scouting out superlative players to admit and in keeping them in school despite low academic strength. Thus, Eghosa walloped us 3-0 in 1974 at Ika Grammar School, Agbor at the quarter-finals. Retired Police Commissioner Ike Aduba was the goal tender, Ezeana (Eddy Boardmas) was captain. The same Eghosa again defeated us in 1977 at the same stage; 0-1. But by then almost all members of their school teams were already playing for clubs around Benin. Sylvanious Orhiaki (Zapata) was captain in 1974 and same year or in ’75 he was already a Bendel Insurance star! But Anthony’s deadliest forward in ’77 and Senior Prefect, Innocent Chukwu was at UNN the following year to read Chemistry and is now in Norway.

Academics mattered the most to Anthonians. Thus, of all the great footballers from that school (including Thomas Nwokolo (Tupalo) Anigala Raymond (brother of Chris, the Super Eagles star) Kadiri Kenneth, Chris Ugbah, Edmond Mekwuye, Obiefune Victor (Dengram) Okey Onyejiaka (Stinging Mosquito), “Ecopido” Agubata, only late Olu, goal keeper Raph Uweche (he was Mid-West Senior team goal keeper in 1973 or ’75 National Sports Festival), Dominic Ezeani and Emmanuel Olisedebay played soccer seriously at club levels. Dike Pious played for Mid-West Line briefly and moved on to the University of Lagos for a degree. But even Ezeani would later abandon soccer for education in Howard University, USA. Only Olisedebay (’90 set) played at the World Cup level; for Poland!

The ailing St. Anthony’s College Old Boys Association has now been rejuvenated by the 60th Anniversary, and connected through WhatsApp, and wants to return the school to its glorious tradition of excellence. The Asaba branch formed the nucleus of the “Save our Alma Matar” movement. They want to provide facilities, sports and academics, as well as a water bore-hole.

A school is about its products. You will find Anthonians everywhere from the Catholic Priesthood with about 20 old students as priests with six coming from Ubulu-Uku town alone, (the present Bishop of Issele-Uku Diocese, Bishop Michael Odogwu Elue, is an Anthonian). A. Nweke Caesar Nwaozumaudoh, became a career Ambassador. Pius Elue (Apache) is a Research Scientists in the USA where he held four patents by 1995 and has been awarding scholarships to Anthony’s students. Major-Gen Frank Osokogwu and Commodore Peter Uwechue ( a sprinter in the ’71 relay team) former head of Navy’s Medical Corps, and Air-Vice Marshal Chris Abiagom (all retired) set the pace in the military.

It is in academics and the professions that Anthonians abound. The anniversary will turn into a remembrance too for Prof Emmanuel Nwanoluelum Emenanjo, this first Professor of Igbo Linguistics and the greatest champion of the standardization of Igbo language. Emenanjo contributed a great deal more than anybody alive or dead to the growth of written Igbo and championed the preservation and promotion of Igbo language and culture, leaving “46 works in 98 publications in 3 languages and 619 library holdings”.

Anthony’s has contributed more than its fair share Medical doctors; Emma Elueze is a leading Prof of Medicine in the US, and Prof Isah Ambrose of UBTH was ’72 Senior Prefect. Austine Ogwu, Ofulue Philip are among doctors from ’75 set. The 1976 sect alone has Odega Louis, Anyafulu Patrick, Nwaefulu Chris, Peter Ozua, Emeka Oraegbu, Charles Okolo and late Tony Juwah. Prof Tony Arinze, ex-Food Prefect, former Deputy Vice Chancellor, Uniport, is an ex-student; ex-Anthonian lecturers too numerous to name, are represented in the almost all Nigerian universities. The legal profession has Fidelis Odita (Queens Counsel in Britain) who led in his Nigerian Law School exam, just like Ibe Kachikwu (who entered the school in 1968). Jos-and Abuja-based Charles Obishai and Asaba-based Ken Mozia are among the SANs while Patrick Eluemunor was NEPA’s Gen. Manager, Legal Department and Robert Osamor is Enugu Law School Rector. In Delta Civil Service, Anthony’s produced the likes of Sir Okechukwu Offili (MNI), Head of Service until 2015, while Sir Tony Obuh and Anthony Chukwududuam and his elder brother, Newton Okobi were recent Permanent Secretaries.

Former DSS Director-General, Chief Peter Nwaodua, is also an ex-student and served as a teacher there after his HSC in 1969. Mike Ejiofor, about the youngest in ’71 set was DSS Director of National Operations by 1988. Andy Isichei, an Accountant, headed the National Forwarding and Clearing Agency (NAFCA) turning the moribund organization into a cash cow before it was privatized. He is now into oil and several other businesses as well as owns his own brand of phone. Hon Chris Chiedu Ashibuogwu, Pharmacist (’76 set) member House of Reps, 1993.

The list is endless; but all that became possible because of the likes of Principal P.A. Dunkwu, who took over from McDonagh, who succeeded the first Principal, Mr. Uchunor. They taught us to live out the school motto: “Emerge Et Adefica” (Arise and Build). The commitment of the great teachers too numerous to name molded the school. But all their labours were almost wasted by the rot that set in in the 1980s through government policies. As school sports died, so did national sports and school academics levels decline, so did quality of learning nationwide.

Now, ex-Anthonians want to push back the darkness that evil policies introduced –policies that are wrecking the lives of Nigeria’s youths.

Tony Eluemunor attended the Universities of Nigeria, Nsukka, Lagos and Harvard after he left St. Anthony’s College in 1976.