Saturday, January 11, 2020 2:55 am
By Nehru Odeh
Chukwuemeka Ike, one of the titans of African literature and author of novels such as The Potter’s Wheel, Toads for Supper and Expo 77 is dead. He died after a brief illness on Thursday, 9 January, 2020 in his home town, Ndikelionwu in Orumba South senatorial district in Anambra State. He was aged 88. Until his death be was the traditional ruler of the town.
While literary buffs know that Ike was one of the first generation writers in Nigeria, many don’t know he lived and breathe literature until his death. Even though he was a traditional ruler, having followed his father’s footstep – his dad was the traditional ruler of his home – he still attended literary events until his death. Even at ripe old age, he was a guest at literary events and contributed immensely to discourse.
Ike, who was at a time registrar of the West African Examination Council and an academic, wrote novels that are mostly satirical and laced with humour and drew a lot from his experience as an academic. His novel Naked Gods, for example, satirizes the academia, while Expo 77 is an expose on examination malpractices.
No doubt Ike was born with all the privileges associated with royalty, his father being the king of his village. But he knew from the outset that he was cut out to be writer. No wonder he shared many similarities with three Nigerian literary greats. China Achebe, Christopher Okigbo and Ken Saro Wiwa. They all attended the prestigious Government College Umuahia and the University College Ibadan where they honed their literary skills and prepared themselves for literary life ahead. They were all accomplished writers.
He also shared another unique trait with Achebe. Though born into strict families and given English names, both writers as an act of rebellion against colonialism dropped their Christian names and opted instead for their native Igbo names. When he was born, Ike was named Vincent but later chose to bear Chukwuemeka, which in Igbo means God has done great.