Ukpabi Asika was born in Barkin-Ladi, in present day Plateau State, to Edward Obiozor and Rebecca Nwanyife Asika on June 28 1936. He had his early education in Barkin-Ladi and Onitsha, before gaining admission into St Patrick’s College, Calabar and later to Edo College, Benin, where he completed his secondary education.
He worked for a period at the Onitsha Town Council, Department of Marketing and Exports in Lagos and the Northern Region of Nigeria Marketing Board, in Kano, in clerical positions. He was admitted to the University College, Ibadan in 1956 to study Economics and Political Science. He graduated in 1960, with a First Class Honours Degree, winning the Prize for best graduating student.
He proceeded to the United States of America, for Post-graduate studies in Political Science, on a Rockefeller scholarship, at the University of California Los Angeles. Whilst at UCLA, he met a young Nigerian female post-graduate student of Library Science and Information Technology, Chinyere Edith Ejiogu. A relationship blossomed and they got married on July 31 1965. The couple shortly after, returned to Nigeria, where they were both employed by the University of Ibadan. The marriage was to produce three children, Obodoechina, Nkiru and Uju.
As the nation was plunged into war on July 6 1967, Ukpabi Asika returned to Nigeria, from East Africa, where he had been pursuing doctoral research. He was soon approached with an offer to act as Administrator of the newly created East-Central State, in the epi-centre of war. He accepted this challenge and embarked on a difficult and challenging journey that at some stages, threatened his marriage and even his life. After the war, he threw himself into the task of reconstruction of a war-ravaged territory.
In the years 1970-1975, Ukpabi Asika and his team of Commissioners (comprising nostly, ex-Biafran Military Officers) successfully executed the enormous assignment of rehabilitating the State. A summary of these achievements consisting of the building/rehabilitation of almost 1200km of roads, the rebuilding and expansion of all health centres in the state, the revival of virtually all pre-war Industrial facilities; the establishment of new Industrial institutions (e.g Premiew Breweries, Limca, Ebony Paints etc); the reconstruction of the University of Nigeria Nsukka; the establishment of the University of Nigerian Teaching Hospital, Institute of Management and Technology, Alvan Ikoku College of Education and many more milestone, too numerous to list here.
On the overthrow of the Gowon administration on July 29, 1975 he pursued a quiet private live, removed from the lime-light. He established one of the first indigenous Information Technology companies in Nigeria, Sigma Systems and also ventured into other sectors of business. He was a member of the board of Directors of the Guardian Press, Oilscan Limited, TNT Limited and Chairman of his family venture, Bladi Investment and Properties Limited. In 1992, President Ibrahim Babangida, appointed him a board member of the New Towns Development Authority. He had earlier served as a Government Special Envoy to Niger, Chad and Cameroun, on the subject of the re-opening Nigeria’s International borders. He had also enjoyed recognition from his Onitsha kinfolk, when he was conferred with the title of Ajie Ukadiugwu, by the Obi of Onitsha in 1986.
He suffered a Stroke in 1994, which he partially recovered from. He returned to Nigeria, where he continued his recovery and was conferred with the National Honour of Commander of the Federal Republic in 2003, which was unarguably one of the proudest and most important moments of his life. He passed away in 2004, leaving a legacy of sterling service to his nation and surrounded by the love of his family and friends. It was a fitting tribute to the man that his close friends, General Yakubu Gowon, Lt-General Theophilus Danjuma, Alhaji Ahmed Joda and Dr Ukwu I Ukwu accompanied his funeral cortege on his departure- in a State burial sanctioned by President Olusegun Obasanjo. His life’s journey ceased, but his legacy of service still endures.