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Chukwuemeka Ike: Writer

Chukwuemeka Ike, Writer, Author of Bottled Leopard and Expo '77, Traditional Ruler

Chukwuemeka Ike was a foremost Nigerian writer born on 28 of April 1931 in Ndikelionwu, eastern Nigeria. He started early education in his native town before leaving to further his education at Ife-Mbaise. From 1945 to 1950, he attended Government College Umuahia where he started writing first in his house publication then for the school magazine, The Umuahian. At Government College, Chukuwemeka was school mates with other Nigerian writers like Chinua Achebe, Christopher Okigbo, and Ken Saro Wiwa. After completing his secondary education, he went on to study at the University College, Ibadan, now known as University of Ibadan where he reconnected with former school mates and budding writers. He studied history, English and Religious Studies at the University of Ibadan and earned a Master's degree at Stanford university.

Chukwuemeka credits much of his interest in writing to his school teachers while he was at Government College. He also mentions Chinua Achebe as being instrumental to his writing career. In an interview with The Nation in 2015, he says, “ Chinua Achebe, who was two classes ahead of me at Umuahia, facilitated my invitation to join the Magazine Club set up by the University to promote creative writing”.

Chukwumeka’s writing career spanned over 36 years with his first book, Toads for Supper, published in 1965, followed by The Naked Gods in 1970, The Potter's Wheel (1973), Sunset at Dawn (1976), Expo '77 (1980), The Chicken Chasers (1980), The Bottled Leopard (1985), Our Children Are Coming (1990), and Conspiracy of silence (2001). His books are considered a part of Nigerian literary classics.

Ike was active in promoting writing in Nigeria. He was on the editorial committee of The African Writer: Journal of the African Authors Association from 1961 to 1962, and in 1970, Achebe’s invitation, he was a part of the maiden editorial board of Okike: An African Journal of New Writing. From 1986 to 1991 he served as the chairman of the Culture Sector of the National Commission for UNESCO. In an awards ceremony at the end of 2001 the National Council for Arts and Culture cited him for his efforts to create “an enabling environment for the growth of Nigerian Literature and the entire book industry,” noting both his long years of service as chairman of the WAEC and president of the Nigerian Book Foundation.

From 1955 to 1956 he taught at the girls’ secondary school, Nkwere before returning to Ibadan in 1957 to work as administrative assistant and registrar of students. In 1960, he moved to the University of Nsukka to serve as deputy registrar and later, as registrar for three years. This was before he went to Stanford for his Master’s which he got in 1967. When the Civil war broke out, he was in charge of refugees in Umuahia Province, and after the war he returned to Nsukka and served briefly as head of the university. His leadership was instrumental in getting the university open again after the war. Chukwuemeka Ike was also a former registrar of the West African Examinations Council (WAEC), the first Nigerian to hold the position.

Until his death on January 8, 2020, Chukwuemeka was Eze Ndikelionwu of the great Aro town in Orumba North Local Government Area of Anambra State.