By C Don Adinuba
The government and people of Anambra State are saddened by the news of the death of Professor Chiweyite Ejike, best known as the last Vice-Chancellor of the Anambra State University of Science and Technology (ASUTECH), Enugu.
The institution has since the early 1990s grown into the Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Enugu State University of Technology, Ebonyi State University and Nnamdi Azikiwe Teaching Hospital, Nnewi Anambra State.
It says a lot about his leadership that it was during Ejike’s tenure that the National Universities Commission (NUC) singled out ASUTECH for public commendation for its engineering programmes.
It was also during his time that the Industrial Development Centre (IDC) under the leadership of the legendary Prof. Oliver Mobisson earned National and International attention.
ASUTECH’s IDC reached an agreement with the University of Massachusetts in the United States when Bart Nnaji, who was to become the Minister of Science and Technology and later Minister of Power in Nigeria, was the Director of the Automation & Artificial Intelligence Laboratory as well as Distinguished Professor of Industrial Engineering at the university, to annually accept young researchers from the IDC to do their doctoral programmes there on scholarship.
ASUTECH’S IDC, which had earlier designed and developed Africa’s first computer, was to lead Nigeria Telecommunication (NITEL) in the development of the Eagle Project meant to digitise and modernise the operations of the state-owned enterprise.
An indigene of Ezeagu Local Government Area of Enugu State, Prof. Ejike was a very proud friend of Anambra people.
During the Nigerian Civil War, he lived in Orsumuoghu, in today’s Ihiala LGA of Anambra State, where he worked as a conscientious research scientist with the Biafran Land Army to ensure millions of Biafrans did not die of hunger and starvation.
While serving as the ASUTECH Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Ejike worked harmoniously with a great gift of Anambra State to the world, Prof. Chinua Achebe, who was then Chairman of the ASUTECH Governing Council and Chancellor of the university.
His admiration for Achebe’s sound leadership is reflected in his autobiography entitled Aguowulu, which was also Ejike’s popular traditional sobriquet.
Ejike also worked well with another great son of Anambra State, Prof. Ben Nwabueze, Africa’s greatest Constitutional law scholar, in the Igbo Leaders of Thought group.
While Prof Nwabueze was the President, Professor Ejike was the Deputy President. The chemistry between them was excellent, and Prof. Ejike never hid his admiration for Prof Nwabueze’s brilliance and enormous personal integrity.
On account of Prof. Nwabueze’s frail health which could not permit him to travel, Prof. Ejike led a large delegation of Igbo scholars and leaders of thought from different parts of the Igbo world to meet Gov. Willie Obiano on December 5, 2019, at the Governor’s Lodge, Amawbia to discuss both regional and national affairs.
The delegation comprised such eminent persons as Prof. Uche Azikiwe, the wife of the Great Zik of Africa, who led Nigeria to independence in 1960; Prof. Elochukwu Amucheazi, former Director General of the National Orientation Agency; and The Most Rev. Maxwell Anikwenwa, Emeritus Archbishop of the Anglican Province on the Niger.
In a prepared speech, which Prof Ejike read on behalf of Prof Nwabueze, the delegation described Anambra State as the flagship of the East, asking Gov. Obiano to “share the secret of his success with his brother Southeast governors’’.
Impressed by the record security in Anambra State, which has caused a huge investment inflow into the state in recent years, Prof. Ejike decided to establish a primary school and a secondary school in Awka, having established a flourishing school of international standard in Enugu.
He was in discussions with senior officials of the Anambra State Government when he unfortunately breathed his last a few days ago.
Prof Ejike died a most accomplished man. He excelled as a student at the University of Ibadan and the University of Manchester in the United Kingdom and did a postdoctoral research programme in the United States.
He taught at the University of Nigeria at Nsukka and University of Jos.
Both his erstwhile students and fellow academics speak admirably about his brilliance, dedication to duty, personal integrity, loyalty to friendship, enthusiasm for Igbo culture, administrative acumen and commitment to rapid societal progress.
The people and government have lost a true friend of the state with the death of Prof. Chiweyite Ejike. We pray for the repose of his soul and divine consolation to the Ejike family. (MOI)
Mr C Don Adinuba is currently, Anambra State Commissioner for Information and Public Enlightenment