In the Second Republic (1979-1983), Dr Dozie Onyeanusi Ikedife was a presidential liaison officer in charge of eastern states. He also served as commissioner for economic development, East Central State in 1975 before he was appointed commissioner for finance and economic development in Anambra State in 1976. Among other numerous positions, he was a reader in Obstetrics-gynecology, Nnamdi Azikiwe University College of Health Sciences and an examiner in the same discipline at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. In 1970, he founded the Dr Dozie Ikedife Hospital, Nnewi, Anambra State, where he still practices his profession, even at 86. In this interview at his office in Nnewi, he spoke about the medical profession, politics of the Second Republic, especially conflicts with the then Governor Jim Nwobodo of Anambra State, among other things.
Many have known Ikenga Nnewi for his professional prowess as an Obstetrician/Gynecologist and Surgeon or for his larger-than-life presence in the political arena. He was also a devout crusader for the preservation, conservation and protection of our shared living space and ecosystems. In simple lingo, he was an environmentalist to the core. A special insight of this aspect of Ikenga’s worldview was revealed to me during the preparatory arrangements for the launch of the World Igbo Environmental Foundation (WIEF) in the Anambra state capital, Awka, by Governor Peter Obi in August 2007. Ikenga Nnewi brought his clout and imprimatur into the nascent WIEF as a patron and a vocal advocate for proper environmental husbandry as an integral part of healthcare delivery and health maintenance.
Who is Dozie Onyeanusi Ikedife?
Dozie Ikedife was born on August 24, 1932, to the family of Dunu-Ifeneti Ikedife Dunu-Ugochukwu and Ejeagha (Nzewi) Ikedife, Dozie Onyeanusi Ikedife had his education at the University of London and University of Glasgow, Scotland, where he obtained Bachelor of Science in 1958 and Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery in 1959, respectively.
He also obtained a Diploma in obstetrical from the Royal College Ob-Gyn in 1960. He also obtained a doctorate degree in Public Administration from World University, Tucson, in 1983.
He was Senior House Officer, Registrar in obstetrics-gynecology in Stobhill Hospital, Glasgow from 1960-1963; Medical Officer Special Grade, Ministry of Health, Lagos, Nigeria, from 1964-1966; Medical Officer Special Grade, Eastern Region, Enugu, Nigeria, from 1966-1967; founder, specialist-in-charge, City Hospital, Aba, Nigeria, 1967-1970; founder, specialist-in-charge, Specialist Medical Center and Ikedife Hospital, Nnewi, Nigeria, since 1970; reader in obstetrics-gynecology., Nnamdi Azikiwe University College of Health Sciences, Nnewi, Nigeria, since 1995. Examiner in obstetrics-gynecology, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, 1981; Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, 1994; Nigerian National Postgraduate Medical College, 1978-1984; West African Postgraduate Medical College, since 1994.
Ikedife was the first chairman, Community Council, Nnewi, 1972-1975. He was the Honorary Commissioner for Economic Development, East Central State of Nigeria, 1975. First Honorary Commissioner Finance and Economic Development, Anambra State, 1976. He was also the first Special Assistant to first Executive President, Federal Republican Nigeria, 1979-1983.
Dr Ikedife was the member, Nnewi Royal Cabinet, 1972. Co-founder, first chairman, Confidence Newspapers Ltd., Nnewi, 1995.
He established Dozie Ikedife Annual Medal and Prize for Best Graduating Medical Doctor, Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, 1995; and Doctor Dozie Ikedife Annual Prize for Best Student in Community Health, University Nigeria, Nsukka, 1988.
He was Fellow, Medical College Ob-Gyn. (Nigeria), West African College Surgeons, Royal College Ob-Gyn., International College Surgeons (President, Nigeria national section 1987-1995, federation secretary 1991-1994, member executive council 1991-1994, world vice president 1994-1996), Learners Society Nigeria (founder).
He was member of Nigerian Medical Association and was the first Nnewi zonal chairman 1972-1976); Society Ob-Gyn. of Nigeria (executive member 1976-1984); International Society Cardio-Thoracic Surgeons (honorary); Rotary Club International (district officer district 9140), Rotary Club of Nnewi (Charter President 1984-1986; One Star Paul Harris Fellow, Vocational Services Award 1997).
He was a Nigerian obstetrician, gynecologist, researcher. He was awarded first Chieftaincy title (Ikuku Ebu Nkpu) by 14 towns in Nnewi North, Nnewi South, Ekwusigo local government areas, Anambra State in 1980; and equally awarded Honorary Chieftaincy title (Ikenga Nnewi) by the Igwe, the Royal Cabinet, and the people of Nnewi in 1981.
He was also awarded Honorary Chieftaincy Title of Odezuligbo Umueje in 1997. He was elected the National President of Ohaneze Ndi Igbo. During his time as President, He gave Ndi Igbo a voice on National issue. He was the true conscience of Ndi Igbo and always face issues the way it ought to be. He was a true Igbo MAN,who stood on the path of Truth and Justice. He has never been found wanting anytime his views and opinions are needed on any matter of National importance. He was a supreme Leader of indigenous peoples of Biafra and Leader of the Elders Council.
Rest on a great man. We will miss your wise counsel. We will miss your elderly advise but be rest assured we will always live the life you have always wanted us to live.
Rest in Peace Sir. We will meet to part no more. Adieu Sir.
I didn’t particularly like politics. Even when I was in secondary school I was not a prefect of any type. I lived in a boarding house. However, I played table tennis and other sports. When I entered the university in 1953 there were so many activities of interest. I joined the Students’ Representative Council and the Liberal Party in the United Kingdom. I joined the Magazine Club, writing the university magazine, GUM. I became the secretary for World University Service for five Scottish universities. That was my first incursion into some of these things. But down the line, I had to drop some of these things as much as I could because it was beginning to affect my studies. I was a student of two universities at the same time.
I was reading Medicine on a fulltime basis in the University of Glasgow, as well as Anthropology as an external student in the University of Florida. It was during the Biafra-Nigeria war that I came back to settle in the village. After the war, they were forming what they called community councils, and the representation was through the wards. My ward said I should go and represent them. But I said I won’t go because I was a busy man and shouldn’t be bothered with community council. They said, “Well, if you don’t go, our seat will remain vacant.’’
My elder brother said I had to go and serve our people and I agreed. On getting there, there was an election for chairman. Many of the people said I should be the chairman, but other people said they were interested in the position. So they had to vote. The person I was competing with borrowed money from me to entertain the councillors so that they would vote for him. He gave money to some people, cooked for some and slaughtered a goat for them to eat with palm oil and pepper. Well, some of them got the money he gave them and showed me. I told them to take the money and vote for him if they liked, but I was not going to give anybody any kobo, not even a cup of water; after all I was not pushing to go into this thing. At the end of the day, I got about 36 votes and he got 14. We had 50 delegates. His score wasn’t even half of mine, so I became the chairman. After the first term, I was returned, virtually unopposed.
I was really serving. I was putting in my own money. I provided the shelf and all the papers for secretarial work. I provided accommodation for the clerk of the council who was a civil servant posted to us. Even though we had somebody described as secretary, we had a clerk – a civil servant posted from Imo State. That was between 1971 and 1972. I still keep in touch with him. It was while I was the chairman of the Community Council that the military governor, Anthony Ochefu, invited me in 1975. That was how I entered politics. After that, I ran for an election into the Federal House but lost. The contest was between the NPN and the Nigerian Peoples Party (NPP). The NPP was Zik’s party. That was how I went into politics. After the election, I was appointed a presidential liaison officer. Between 1992 and 1993 I vied for the presidency of this country, the one that MKO Abiola was nearly winning during the Option A4 introduced by Prof. Humphrey Nwosu, the then chairman of the National Electoral Commission (NEC).
I won’t be able to single out one. You see, I was coordinating, visiting and directing all the federal establishments in the entire states. Those were not small assignments. I had a limited budget, so I wasn’t able to give brown envelopes to anybody. But I was able to distribute some patronages – import licences, rice allocations etc. Customs, Immigrations, federal ministries and agencies saw my office as a rallying point. It was a big rallying point because I answered to the distress calls of all of them, to the best of my ability. I enjoyed the position; the only thing was that sometime people expected too much from me. And I wasn’t able to give too much if it entailed dipping my hand into my pockets. There was a limit to what I could do. Apart from that, I made my office very accessible; the door of my office was never shut. I had no secrets whatsoever while in office. If I had some secrets it must be outside the office.
Of course, there were challenges. One of the challenges was that the state government was not friendly. They saw me as an impostor and intruder; like a sore thumb that could be lanced and removed. I was the secretary of the body of presidential liaison officers while our chairman was Sarkin Kudu, the first son of Sultan of Sokoto. He later became the Sultan of Sokoto . So, you can imagine that we were in a very advantageous position. We didn’t need to book appointments to see the president. We saw him any time we wanted because the chairman of the liaison officers was the son of the Sultan of Sokoto and the president was from Sokoto. He couldn’t imagine the son of the Sultan of Sokoto waiting to see him and he would say no. It never happened, and we didn’t abuse that privilege either. Any time our delegation was to go and see the president, even if it was for only one hour, I was one of them because I was the secretary.
I learnt a lot of lessons. I dealt with people who carried placards against me, saying that I won’t ‘chop and won’t let them chop.’ They conspired against me. When a consignment of rice was coming to the East, instead of offloading them in Lagos and transporting them by land to the eastern region, they decided to do transhipment to Port Harcourt. And rumour went out that the rice had been sent and I sold it. They reported me to the then Vice President Alex Ekwueme. We had a meeting in Lagos with him. At the end of the meeting, the chairman of the party and the secretary said we should wait. I waited. They reported to the vice president that the rice meant for Anambra and Imo states had been sent and I sold it. When they finished, I said that I wanted to reply, but Ekwueme said no. That afternoon he contacted Umaru Dikko and asked about the rice for Imo, Anambra and Cross River states? Dikko told him that he was making arrangement to ship them in a week’s time but he hadn’t secured the ship; the rice had not been put on board, therefore it could not have been delivered. He said that presidential liaison officers could not have received it to sell.
I am a specialist in gynaecology. I am the longest practising gynaecologist in Nigeria today.
I enjoy so many things, including music, reading, philosophical and religious discussions at a higher level; not quoting Job 13:13 or Mathew 16:14 to me, or insisting that we must go to Mass at 6am in the morning. That’s not religion to me. I think that is playing to the gallery. If it pleases you, go, but don’t ask me to come with you. I enjoy good classical music and jazz. The one I don’t know whether I enjoy as much is the shouting music. These one they talk rather than sing. Is it rap music? For me, rap is scrap. I like discussing and arguing on anything. If I take up one topic now you and I will spend the whole night dealing with a question like: How old are you? If I ask you that question, you may tell me that you are 30 or 35 years but that’s not how old you are. Or you may tell me you were born on this or that day, but I didn’t ask you when were you born? I asked how old you are. It has a deeper meaning than just telling me you were born in 1995, and therefore, you are 26 or 22. That’s not what I mean.
Dr. Dozie Onyeanusi Ikedife (Ikenga Nnewi) was so certain about the consequential life he lived that he willed that, at his death, his remains should simply be returned to earth without much fanfare. What he left unsaid, of course, is that whoever feel inspired by him and what he stood for, should focus their time, energy and resources in fostering the continuation of all aspects of the struggles that had defined his activist life. Some would have preferred to emote their respect and appreciation for Ikenga Nnewi by putting up a big spectacle during his burial ceremony or orchestrating an elaborate condolence visit and funerary extravaganza that should ordinarily be accorded to this highly accomplished Nnewi chieftain.
But Dr. Ikedife had something else in mind. For this brave man’s personal choice, we mortals have nothing but respect that endures. Ikenga Nnewi was forthright in declaring that time and resources expended to celebrate or mourn his exit from this side of eternity is a WASTE. Dr. Ikedife is a stickler for efficiency and effectiveness in whatever he was involved in. Waste, therefore, is antithetical to Ikenga’s worldview.
“For me, a befitting burial is when you are sure I am dead, dig six-feet, wrap me in a mat, put me in the ground and cover it. I will not be celebrated when I die. I don’t want a funeral. Once I am dead, put me in the grave and go away. Don’t come on condolence visit. Don’t come for funeral ceremony. I don’t want it; is it of any use to me, a dead person? You are just wasting your time and giving yourself trouble. If you invite the whole Nigeria, it doesn’t mean anything to me. If you invite 10 people, it doesn’t mean anything to me. If you fire 100 gunshots, it means nothing to me. People waste energy and sometimes, money; sometimes, they borrow or sell things to give somebody what they call a befitting burial. I don’t need it.” – Dr. Dozie Ikedife
Dozie Ikedife, Igbo leader dies on December 12, 2018 11:14 am. Dozie Onyeanusi Ikedife got his wish. He was buried without fanfare less than 24hrs after he breathed his last.
President Muhammadu Buhari extends heartfelt condolences to the Ikedife family as well as the government and people of Anambra State on the death of their illustrious son, Dr Dozie Ikedife. The President also commiserates with Ohanaeze Ndigbo on the passing of the former President-General of the pan-Igbo socio-cultural group.
The President joins them in mourning the veteran obstetrician and gynaecologist who spent over fifty years of his life as a medical practitioner, working bravely to save countless lives in the country and charting new developments in the medical field through research.
As a medical practitioner, respected community leader and political actor, President Buhari believes that Dr Ikedife will be sorely missed and honoured for his commitment to the development of his community, devotion to his professional calling, zeal for democratic values and passion for the preservation of Igbo ethos and tradition.
The President hopes that family, friends, associates and the many doctors trained by the elder statesman find comfort and inspiration in his diligence and generosity of heart of giving his best to humanity. The President prays God to grant the deceased eternal rest and comfort all who mourn him.
- Dr Ikedife, held the traditional title of Ikuku Ebu Nkpu which was awarded to him by 14 communities in Nnewi North, Nnewi South, Ekwusigo local government areas of Anambra State.
- He was also a holder of an honorary chieftaincy title of Ikenga Nnewi and Odezuligbo Umueje.
- Ikenga was very passionately active in his alma mater’s old boys association (DOBA). He was the winner of 2017 Annual Chike Okonyia award by the Dennis Memorial Grammar School Old Boys’ Association (DOBA).
He was married to Hon. Chief (Mrs.) Christie Ikedife (Ayolugo Nnewi) for over 50 years and the marriage was blessed with many children and grandchildren.