Foremost Nigerian novelist and traditional ruler of Ndikelionwu, Anambra State, Chukwuemeka Ike, is dead. The literary icon died on Thursday at the Nnamdi Azikwe Teaching Hospital in Nnewi, Anambra State, at age 88 after a brief illness.
A close friend who spoke on the condition of anonymity told PREMIUM TIMES that the late novelist’s health had deteriorated ever since his only son’s death in 2016. His son, Ositadinma Ike, had married a daughter of a Benin Chief, Osarunwense Eghosa, but the marriage hit rock bottom at the last days of Ositadinma.
Though blessed with a son named after the late novelist, Chukwuemeka Junior, family disagreements meant the Ike family no longer had access to Chukwuemeka Jnr. after their son’s death. The event was said to have saddened the writer who longed to see his only grandchild and heir.
“When I saw him during the last Christmas, he was really heart-broken and was in deep trauma over his inability to meet his grandchild,” the close associate told PREMIUM TIMES. There was a public appeal made by Mr Ike’s close friends who worried over Mr Ike’s broken heart to find the whereabouts of Chukwuemeka Jnr. Until his death, the boy’s whereabouts remained unknown.
Mr Ike is survived by his wife, Adebimpe Ike.
A lawyer and close associate to the late novelist, Abel Odo, said he was embittered by the shocking news. He described the loss of his friend as rather “heart-shattering” and that he would be missed greatly. A former President, Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA) and professor of English at the University of Ibadan, Remi-Raji Oyelade, expressed sadness over the novelist’s death, saying he would be remembered for his memorable novels.”
The don described Me Ike as “a literary administrator who coordinated the Nigerian Book Foundation for many years. “He was very supportive of the arts; even as the Eze of his people, Prof Ike continued to connect with Nigerian writers as individuals and as groups or associations. And he was a great alumnus of UI,” Mr Oyelade told PREMIUM TIMES.
Former PDP presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, also shared his grief on the death of the novelist. Mr Abubakar on Twitter said: “I mourn one of Nigeria’s prolific novelists &traditional ruler of Ndikelionwu in Anambra State, HRH (Prof) Chukwuemeka Ike (the Ikelionwu IX).
“He will be remembered for his classics: Toads for Supper &Sunset at Dawn among others. May he rest in peace.
Born on April 23, 1931, in Ndikelionwu, Anambra State, Mr Ike was part of the golden set of pioneer African writers and drew motivation from the late novelist, Chinua Achebe. He began his writing journey from school days at Government College, Umuahia, where he wrote fearlessly in the school magazine, The Umuahian.
His first story ever written, ‘A Dreamland’ was published in The Umuahian and set his foot on the literary space.
He would later explore the space more when he entered the University College, Ibadan. Quickly noting his writing acumen, Mr Achebe adopted him into the literary circle of the time that wrote about politics on campus and nationally. His literary output was well praised with profundity in mirroring African and Igbo cultures.
Such is seen in his authored works like Toads for Supper (1965), The Naked God’s (1970), The Potter’s Wheel (1973), Sunset and Dawn (1976), Expo ’77 (1980), The Bottled Leopard (1985), Our Children are coming (1990).
Aside from writing, he served as an academic in different roles such as a lecturer at the University of Ibadan, registrar at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN) and visiting professor at the University of Jos. He was also a former registrar of the West Africa Examination Council (WAEC), the first Nigerian to hold the position. Premium Times