Death steals in the unkindest of moments. There were no signs whatsoever that Prince Osita Ike was on his way out. Aged 54, he had countless dreams ahead. I should know because we were more than friends. A lot of commentators have had their say that Osita was not the literary type like his legendary father, His Royal Majesty Eze Prof Vincent Chukwuemeka Ike (OFR, NNoM) Eze Ikelionwu XI and author of Toads for Supper, The Potter’s Wheel, The Naked Gods, Sunset at Dawn, Expo 77, The Chicken Chasers, Our Children are Coming etc. Now let me get the cat out of the bag, for Osita Ike did publish a collection of poems entitled Festivale Nucleare way back in 1986, when he was just 24 years of age. Born on June 12, 1962, he passed away on December 17, 2016. Osita used his poetry to truly encapsulate the life he would live. It is said that anything not worth dying for is not worth living for. Osita fought the good fight and died for a worthy cause.
Tears well up in my eyes as I pick up the copy of Osita’s poetry collection Festivale Nucleare which he autographed for me on March 20, 1987 with these words: “To a dear friend Maxim Uzoatu with best wishes.” He writes out his full names on the book’s title page thusly: Ositadinma Adeolu Nnanyelugo Olusanya Ike, sumptuously representing his Igbo-Yoruba parentage. Published by Oyster St. Iyke Editions, the book bears the dedication: “for mum and dad, Adebimpe Olurinsola and Vincent Chukwuemeka Ike.” The Osita Ike Enterprises, Publishing Division, has addresses via P.O. Box 638 Bauchi and P.O. Box 9113 Lagos.
In the Preface to Festivale Nucleare, Osita Ike writes: “This is my first published work apart from articles and essays on radio and in magazines. It is also the end of an experiment and the first finished product from Osita Ike Enterprises born in 1986.” We do know that Osita died as a result of asthma complications, and he did live his entire life dedicated to the fight against asthma. As he reveals in Festivale Nucleare, he set up a body to fight asthma, writing: “In July 1986, OSFAN, the product of a vision, was born to join in the fight against respiratory afflictions especially Asthma. OSFAN – Osita For Asthmatic Nigeria seeks to drum up support for NISASMA – the Nigerian Society for Asthmatics in particular. OSFAN is also planning a sponsored cycle run from Ibadan to Lagos in December 1986. I also intend to see this anthology out by then and proceeds from its launching are pledged to the work of OSFAN and NISASMA. You are all therefore cordially invited and requested to join hands and lungs with the asthma vanguard.”
He indeed makes out a form at the back of the book which he encourages his readers to fill in and send contributions, in cash or kind and pledges, straight to NISASMA. He asks the pointed question “Is Asthma a killer?” and promptly answers: “Yes, it is!!!” He then makes the appeal: “Please help to control Asthma.” According to Osita Ike, “Some people can live for weeks without food, some can live for days without water, but no human being, however highly placed, can live for minutes without air. The biggest concern of the ASTHMATICS is how to breathe well. There are over two million (2,000,000) ASTHMATICS in Nigeria. Many of them are children. During an attack they fight for every breath. ASTHMA can strike at any age irrespective of sex or creed. Thousands of Nigerians die of the disease every year. It is a matter for NATIONAL CONCERN. ASTHMA is a distressing, disabling, hereditary and non-contagious disease. However, it is preventable, controllable, and treatable.” Osita Ike’s dogged fight to stop asthma in its tracks was carried on with his customary gusto until the selfsame accursed disease stopped the fight in mid-flight.
A committed soul from the very beginning, Osita Ike was an only son, indeed an only child. The heir to crown, he dared not to be sheltered in the hood of royalty. He cultivated a network of friends, largely from the families of his father’s friends such as Chinua Achebe’s children Chinelo and Ike, Chike Momah’s daughter Ada, Prof Emovon’s daughter Osa, Prof Ukoyen’s daughter Adia etc. He was an accomplished member of the Boys Scout movement as a child. He was elected the Secretary General of the Students Union Government of the University of Jos. An avid motorcycle rider, he enjoyed travelling, such as recalling the trip that took him “through Kaduna to Jos and Bauchi, back through Jos to Enugu, Ndikelionwu (for the laying to rest of our late Rev. Canon Chief W.N. Mbonu) to Aba, Onitsha, Awka, and five weeks and several poems after the initial departure, back through Ijebu-Ode to resume classes with my students at The Polytechnic, Ibadan.” He once “hitched a ride from Ibadan, in the cabin of a Fiat trailer carrying wheat offals to Kaduna.”
He was an irrepressible promoter of music and the creative arts, and enjoyed the hobbies of photography, politics, fishing and gardening. Little wonder his collection of poetry Festivale Nucleare “spans a wide range of emotions and subjects, from the satirical and political to the amorous and rib-tickling humorous.”
Osita made bold to say in life that he would have been a trader if not for his parents who were distinguished pathfinders in the course of education. The mother Adebimpe wrote new chapters into the book of librarianship in Nigeria while his renowned novelist father served as the Registrar of the West African Examinations Council (WAEC).
Osita Ike was the Principal Consultant of Oyster St Iyke Limited, a PR and communications consultancy. He was an active member of both the Public Relations Consultants Association of Nigeria (PRCAN) and the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations (NIPR). John Ehiguese, the President of PRCAN, was stunned by Osita’s sudden death, stating: “We mourn our dynamic and enthusiastic colleague whose commitment to the public relations profession was never in doubt. No doubt the outpouring of emotion and tributes since his sudden transition is a confirmation of how well he played his part in the advancement of his cherished profession and his belief in humanity. We pray that God Almighty will comfort his aged parents, wife, children and all whose lives our brother and friend Ike impacted on.”
An unwavering lover of his homeland where his father reigned as Eze Ikelionwu XI, he avidly promoted the Ndike books and cultural festival that held every October, that is, following the September hosting of the New Yam Festival. Popularly known as Jizospikin, to wit, the child of Jesus Christ, Osita Ike was indeed larger than life and death.
Osita’s death literally tore apart Facebook. Let’s end on the note of this December 21, 2016 post by Anita Aggrey: “A wonderful, kind-hearted giant has been called to eternal rest and glory. I’m still reeling from the shock of Prince Osita Ike Jizospikin‘s sudden departure. It is not necessary to have met someone physically in order to be impacted by their uniqueness. Prince Osita was one of the loveliest, kindest, most humble of gentlemen: no detection of pomposity or arrogance despite his royalty. Always encouraging and good-natured. Never for a second imagined he wouldn’t be here with us. May the Holy Spirit comfort his family and friends. Our loss is Heaven’s gain. By God’s grace we will eventually meet on the other side of eternity some day. Rest well in Father’s bosom until then our Prince.”
He is survived by his aged parents, his son and his daughter.