Monday, March 8, 2021 12:55 pm
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, which has since the early 1990s grown into the Nnamdi Azikiwe University in Awka, Enugu State University of Technology, Ebonyi State University and Nnamdi Azikiwe Teaching Hospital, Nnewi in 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 Professor 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 digitize and modernize the operations of the state-owned enterprise.
An indigene of Ezeagu Local Government Area of Enugu State, Professor Ejike was a very proud friend of Anambra people.
During the Nigerian Civil War, he lived in Orsumuoghu, in today’s Ihiala Local Government Area 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, Professor Ejike worked harmoniously with a great gift of Anambra State to the world, Professor 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 so well with another great son of Anambra State, Professor 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 Professor Ejike never hid his admiration for Prof Nwabueze’s brilliance and enormous personal integrity.
On account of Professor Nwabueze’s frail health which could not permit him to travel, Professor Ejike led a large delegation of Igbo scholars and thought leaders from different parts of the Igbo world to meet Governor Willie Obiano on December 5, 2019, at the Governor’s Lodge in Amawbia to discuss both regional and national affairs. The delegation comprised such eminent persons as Professor Uche Azikiwe, the wife of the Great Zik of Africa who led Nigeria to independence in 1960; Professor Elochukwu Amucheazi, former Director General of the National Orientation Agency; and The Most Reverend Maxwell Anikwenwa, Emeritus Archbishop of the Anglican Province of 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 Anmabra State which has caused a huge investment inflow into the state in recent years, Professor 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 Professor Chiweyite Ejike. We pray for the repose of his soul and divine consolation to the Ejike family.