AJIE UKPABI ASIKA CFR

AJIE UKPABI ASIKA CFR BIOGRAPHY

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.

DIBUEZE CHINYERE ASIKA OFR PHD

DIBUEZE CHINYERE ASIKA OFR PHD

Chinyere Edith Asika (née Ejiogu) was born in 1939, the eldest daughter of one of eastern Nigeria’s foremost educationists, Nathan Okeoma Ejiogu (OON, Officer of the Order of the Niger). An exceptionally intelligent and independent-minded young woman, she attended primary school at the Government Middle School Owerri , then went on to attend Holy Child College, Ikot Epene and the Cornelia Connelly College, Uyo. She completed her higher-school education at Queen’s College, Lagos.

Asika gained an academic scholarship to study government and anthropology at Mills College, Oakland, California, a patrician all-ladies university, in 1956. While at Mills, she was active in recreation, joining the university’s swimming team. She was also, rather interestingly, a member of an all-girl pop band, for which she played the drums. She was a regular speaker at debates and lectures and was often invited to provide a unique African perspective. She never failed to impress upon her audience the potential and positive attributes of both Nigeria and Africa. Asika’s razor-sharp intellect and masterful grasp of issues brought her to the attention of the black power movement, for whom she acted as spokesperson. As a result, she was invited to the ABC Studios in September 1962 for an interview on the aims of the movement, which she duly delivered, in conjunction with the legendary activist Stokely Carmichael.

She graduated from Mills College in 1964. A chance encounter at the University of California, Los Angeles, brought her in contact with her future husband, Anthony Ukpabi Asika. She enrolled for a master’s degree in information technology with library science as a minor on the advice of Asika – being a bright young woman, she managed the change of discipline with aplomb and graduated with a master’s in 1965.

She and Ukpabi Asika were married in a registry ceremony at the Los Angeles County courthouse in July 1965. She returned to Nigeria to work as assistant librarian at the University of Ibadan in August 1965, while Ukpabi Asika returned in December 1965. The couple then settled down to life at the University of Ibadan – he was recruited as a senior lecturer in political science. Their marriage was barely two months old when the political crisis of 1966 started, with the 15 January 1966 coup. This was followed by a counter-coup on 29 July 1966. This led to the declaration of the Republic of Biafra on 30 May 1967.

On 30 June 1967 the couple travelled to Tanzania as Ukpabi Asika wanted to finalise his PhD research into the southern African liberation movements in Tanzania and later Zambia. Chinyere Asika spent an intense period embedded with ANC members in exile in at time, often attempting secret crossings into then Rhodesia with the activists. The couple later moved to Kenya, at which time Ukpabi Asika decided to return to Nigeria- without his wife. It was a difficult decision for the young couple, but they agreed to it after being persuaded by mutual friends the legendary political scientist James Smoot Cole, and Kenyan academic Daniel Okumu. Asika remained in Kenya working as a research assistant for Okumu while he husband returned to Nigeria, at the end of September 1967.

She was to rejoin her husband in Nigeria in late 1967, by which time he had been appointed the administrator of the central state by the federal government of Nigeria. This was in direct conflict with her convictions at the time, which were firmly pro-Biafra. By the time the war ended, however, she and her husband focused their mutual energies on the most important problem: the rehabilitation of close to seven million displaced former Biafrans. She assisted with mobilisation for the rehabilitation effort at Enugu.

The enormity of the task is summarised by Chief Chu Okongwu, economic adviser to the East Central State government“…. there could not have been less than 7 million persons in East-Central State at war’s end waiting for succour. From the ashes of the war, with this adversarial human material and yet massive pressure of needs…”

By 1971 Chinyere Asika got to work with an idea for women’s mobilisation that had been rooted in Igbo tradition on two planks, the first being traditional role of women in generating independent income by farming and co-operative projects. The Asika administration had come up with the concept of ‘olu obodo’ (‘the work of the community’), acounterweight to the expression ‘olu oyibo’ (the white man’s work) – generally speaking, indigenous minds held disdain for the civil service. The administration promoted the concept to encourage communities to initiate projects, which would receive support.

Chinyere Asika’s idea was a women’s mobilisation project known as Otu Olu Obodo – community work in which women would engage in self-help projects centred on agriculture and traditional cottage Industries. This mobilisation was initially independent, with no direct financial investment by the state government.Communities were encouraged to donate land for the women to launch crop farming, which they did with a will, seeing that women were an integral part of the communities in which the projects were based.

Within four years, Otu Olu Obodo had mobilised close to one million women in east central state in various community projects. The success of the project was such that, by 1975, the east central state allocated the sum of500,000naira for its expansion in that year’s budget. However, very little if any of the budget had been spent when the Yakubu Gowon administration, under which the state administration of Ukpabi Asika had operated, was overthrown in a military coup on 29 July 1975. This brought the project to an end.

Otu Olu Obodo had been a phenomenal success, however; it had mobilised the largest number of women in history at the time and had proved to be an incredibly ambitious, intelligent project that had made use of traditional concepts that indigenous people had understood, identified with and supported wholeheartedly.

Asika was once again asked to apply her considerable skills for women’s mobilisation in the Nigerian 2nd Republic (1979-1983), when she became the women’s leader of the National Party of Nigeria, for the eastern zone, in 1983. She made history once more when she was appointed special adviser to the government of the old Anambra state on women’s affairs in 1983. This was the first time that a dedicated government would be established exclusively for women’s affairs and Chinyere Asika was at its helm. Unfortunately, she served the state administration for just three months before the government of President Shehu Shagari was overthrown.

Several years later, in 2003, she was called upon once more for national service – she was appointed special adviser to President Olusegun Obasanjo on the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), the African Union’s development coordinating entity. The emphasis was on areas such as agricultural development, climate change, regional integration, human development, and economic and corporate governance. In recognition of her contributions to development, she was honoured with the national award of Officer of the Federal Republic (OFR) in 2006. She passed away peacefully in her sleep on May 3, 2015. Chinyere Asika’s legacy largely consists of the invaluable and tireless contributions she made to women’s mobilisation and empowerment, which gave several thousand women in the old east central state a strong sense of independence in the immediate aftermath of the Nigerian Civil War. This concept was to be adopted by the originators of the Better Life for Rural Women and Family Support Programmes. She passed away peacefully in her sleep on May 3, 2015.