By Japhet Davidson
ONE of the greatest undoing of Nigerians is that they like to celebrate people after their death. Though, in some cases it is not so as some people go the extra mile to celebrate some living legends. Late Prof. Chukwuemeka Ike happens to be among the privileged ones who were celebrated while alive.
Although he even acknowledged the fact that there are criteria that qualifies one to be celebrated, “For you to be celebrated in the literary world you must be steadfast by sticking to creative writing, else poor reading culture and piracy will become a stumbling block.”
These globally celebrated creative writer and author of Toad for Super, Eze Chukwuemeka Ike, made the statement when the UNN Nsukka kick started the golden jubilee celebration of his writing at the University community. And, looking at the period he started writing and his contributions to the literary world, Late Prof. Ike met the standard and that was why various organisations, schools etc rolled out drums to celebrate his years of writing.
The celebration which were done in various states climaxed when the famous publishers, University Press Plc instead of its normal lectures that address issues in the society dedicated the 2015 authors forum to him.
The event which was held at Kakanfo Inn and Conference Centre, Ibadan and attended by many eminent personalities, friends, colleagues, authors and scholars including the Managing Director, UP Plc, Samuel Kolawole; former Vice Chancellor, University of Ibadan, Emeritus Profs. Ayo Banjo, Ayo Bamgboshe, Prof. Akachi Ezeigbo etc. afforded the management of UP Plc and other authors another golden opportunity to celebrate the elder statesman’s achievements as a leading, internationally acclaimed novelist of Nigerian birth.
Speaking in his capacity as the Chairman of the Board of Directors, University Press Plc, and chairman of the occasion Dr. Lekan Are, who described the veteran writer, Prof. Chukwuemeka Ike, as an author whose works transformed individuals and the society said UPL was lucky to have Ike, who is also the paramount ruler of Ndikelionwu town in Anambra State, on its board between 1978 and 2002.
“Ike is an acclaimed creative writer, whose first novel, Toads for Supper, was published in London in 1965. To date, he has written several short stories, 11 novels, one novel in Igbo, one fictional travelogue, two non-fiction books, four monographs and edited non-fiction books. He uses his stories and creative works to mirror, command, reproach and persuade the society, with the intention of having a better society. His stories centre on the transformation of the individual, the transformation of Nigeria as well as the transformation of the society at large.” He added.
In her keynote address titled, ‘Celebrating Chukwuemeka Ike: A literary icon of our time,’Prof. Kanchana Ugbabe, who took an analytic overview of the body of relevant writing done by Chukwuemeka Ike in the first 50 years of his career as a Relevant Published Writer….since 1965, described the author as a gentle giant and a man of humility. Prof. Kanchana Ugbabe who recalled how the writing style of the author helped her and other students in their build up disclosed that her first contact with Prof. Ike dated back to 1970 when she was writing her Ph.D. thesis in Australia. In her presentation, the professor of English and African Literature who divided the presentation into three sessions, sub-titled: Reading Chukwuemeka Ike for pleasure, Reading Ike as a Scholar, and Reading Ike as a Teacher/ Teaching Ike highlighted the various ways Prof. Ike has used his books to address various fundamental issues in the society, pointing out that Ike wrote with psychological realism and sense of humour.
According to her, in the Potter’s Wheel set in the 1940’s Nigeria, Ike presents the shaping and molding of young children in the potter’s wheel of Teacher’s household, in Naked Gods, Ike gives insight into the workings of the university system, but characteristically ridicules the excesses of the system and human behavior. In The Children are coming, Ike lashes out in vehement anger ans satire the injustices meted out to young people by adult society by reminding that the children they have nurtured in affluence, in careless abandon, in a country that an least afford it, are indeed coming.
In Expo ‘77 sounds the alarm bells concerning exam malpractice as far back as 1980. Sunset at Dawn is Ike’s bold and compelling venture into historic recording of the Nigerian civil war while Ike continues the search for the solution to Nigeria’s problems in The Search. Apart from the novels, Prof Ike was also concerned with the reading culture, the book industry and access to books by the common man for a very long time. He has been the president of the Nigerian Book Foundation and his efforts have gone a long way towards improving the reading culture and the book industry in Nigeria in the past 25 years.
Through the foundation, Ike has also vigorously protected copyright laws and helped prevent piracy of books. Ike as literary giant has used his God-given talent in storytelling to educate people on good moral values as well as remind them of rewards that come from hard work and honesty. Responding to the lecture, late Prof Ike who went down memory lane to narrate his experiences in the company, how it started as Oxford University Press till it was changed to University Press Plc thanked the company and others present especially his colleagues for gracing the event.