THE FASCINATING STORY OF TWO COLLEGES IN ARONDIZUOGU: NATIONAL HIGH SCHOOL AND IHEME MEMORIAL COLLEGE

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By Mazi Uche Ohia, Ph.D

Preamble

In Arondizuogu, two pioneer institutions stand as eternal monuments of the vision and the tenacity of our forefathers: National High School, Arondizuogu which is, undoubtedly, the most imposing achievement of Arondizuogu Patriotic Union (APU) and Iheme Memorial College, Arondizuogu which emerged as a child of circumstance. The original plan was for Arondizuogu to establish one college through communal effort. However, disagreement among APU members over the site of the proposed college led to the construction of a second college. The two colleges were built simultaneously and opened at the same time. How did it happen? Here is the story.

Background

At a meeting of APU held at Umuahia in March 1940, a proposal to construct a college in Arondizuogu was presented. The idea which was mooted by Mazi Moses Egbo Nwankwo who had been appointed the General Secretary of the union in 1939 envisaged the construction of a college in Arondizuogu through communal effort. As recorded in the minutes of that meeting, the proposal also prescribed the issuance of membership and contribution cards “for the purpose of raising funds for the prospective college”. The proposal generated great interest and gained wide acceptance at the meeting. It was adopted as a flagship project of the union. Fundraising for the project began in earnest.

It was not surprising that the college proposal generated so much interest and enthusiasm. Having ventured outside the community the literate and semi literate members of the Union had come to appreciate their academic shortcomings. They, therefore, saw the need to provide better opportunities for their children, kith and kin. Once the college project was adopted, therefore, members became seized by a patriotic fervour to realize the project. At the launching of the Arondizuogu College Fund on December 29, 1942, thirty one patriots in a frenzied display of enthusiasm voluntarily pledged a total sum of One thousand five hundred and seventy- five pounds (£1,575) towards the project. The 31 patriots as recorded in the Minutes of APU Rally of December 29, 1942 were:

S/No NAME AMOUNT

  1. J. Green Mbadiwe £500
  2. F.O. Mbadiwe £100 .
  3. S.O. Maduike £200
  4. R.M. Amakwe £ 50
  5. R.O. Ikoro £ 25
  6. James Ezumah £ 25
  7. Michael Igwegbe £ 50
  8. Maurice Chima £ 25
  9. M.N. Igwillo £ 25
  10. M. Egbo Nwankwo £ 25
  11. D.T. Okoro £ 25
  12. Simeon Akamnonu £ 25
  13. Obioha Mbabi £ 25
  14. L.N. Obioha £ 50
  15. C. B. Ownerson £ 25
  16. Chief Igwe Nwatalaku £ 25
  17. Gilbert Obioha £ 25
  18. J.O. Okereke £ 25
  19. L.O. Okoro £ 25
  20. W. I. Nwankwo £ 25
  21. C.O. Oji £ 25
  22. F.O. Onwuchulum £ 25
  23. J.O. Ume £ 25
  24. M. Onyekaba £ 25
  25. J.O. Nwokeji £ 25
  26. P.C. Obioha £ 25
  27. E.O. Nwankwo £ 25
  28. G.N. Muotoh £ 25
  29. D.U. Utoh £ 25
  30. J.E. Udeh £ 25
  31. Josiah N. Okike £ 25

It is difficult to ascertain how many of these pledges were eventually redeemed. What emerges from the records of the APU is that the union had a hectic time trying to get the pledgors to redeem their pledges. The fact that these pledges had been widely published in the local media at the time only served to accentuate the union’s resolve to secure the fulfillment of the pledges. Efforts to summon the pledgers to the APU meeting of January 1944 ended abortively. By the Union’s meeting of September 28, 1946, the Secretary was directed to issue thinly veiled threats to all the people who had not redeemed their pledges to do so or have a disclaimer published against them in the media showing “that they have never contributed the sum of money alleged in local press to have been contributed by each …”. (Minutes of APU meeting of Sept., 28, 1946).

The collection of the compulsory levies which were imposed by the APU on component villages of Ndizuogu in respect of the proposed national college was less difficult but not without its own incidents. For the commencement of the collection of these levies, the APU organised a special extended meeting on January 5th and 6th, 1944 in the Native Court Hall at Ndiawa. On each of those days several villages submitted in full or in part the college contributions collected by them. Fines were imposed on defaulting towns (including those that failed to pay their contributions in full). Those fined included:

To boost the college fund, the union levied annual contribution and classified male adults of Ndizuogu ‘abroad’ (that is those resident in the urban centres) into four grades for the purpose:

1st Grade – to pay 20 shillings
2nd Grade – to pay 15 shillings
3rd Grade – to pay 10 shillings
4th Grade – to pay 5 shillings .

All taxable adults living at home (that is, those resident in any part of Ndizuogu) were levied one shilling each, to be paid annually.

More stringent measures were adopted to compel the defaulting towns to pay up their contributions. Apart from the fines any town that defaulted would loose its seat in the clan court and in the council until the debt was paid. The determination of the APU to collect these monies to actualize the college project became a personal mantra among the union’s activists. At the foot of the minutes of the 14th session of the union held in January 1944, the secretary, Egbo Nwankwo scribbled a silent prayer: ‘CONTRIBUTE TO SUPPORT ARONDIZUOGU COLLEGE’. Conversely, inducement in the form of commissions, scholarships and gifts were given to loyal villages who discharged their obligations to the college project.

While fundraising continued the project itself remained on the drawing board. With the return of Mbonu Ojike in 1947, he began to educate the Union on why it should embark on the project immediately. At the marathon meeting of the APU held between December 28 -31, 1947 Ojike struck the right chord when he took the floor on Day One to charge that action shall speak louder than words in APU henceforth. Ojike’s motion and proposals on the ways and means of generating ‘adequate funds’ for the immediate construction of the proposed college which was seconded by A.N. Igbo was also adopted by the union.

This proposal determined ‘adequate funds’ to mean £15,000 which would be shared among the seventeen towns of Ndizuogu (according to the estimated population of each town). Each town was expected to pay its share in three installments.

The Beginning of Arondizuogu Day (December 27)

As enthusiasm for the college project witnessed a resurgence, the union began to consider further avenues of raising funds for the project. To this end, the APU organised an Education Rally in Arondizuogu on December 27, 1948; a day Mbonu Ojike described as’ Action Day’. The whole clan turned out in a festive mood. There were several traditional displays and retinues of dancers in variegated accouterments. The secretary of the APU, thoroughly overwhelmed by the pomp and pageantry which marked the occasion records: ” all that took place and the scene of it all cannot be expressed in written words” .

At the rally, donations were generously made by enthusiastic indigenes. The decision that anyone who donated up to one hundred pounds would be rewarded with a new title served as ample motivation to well-heeled members who competed among each other to steal the show. The twelve donors in this category alone contributed 1,205 pounds. The donors were:

Name of Donor Title Amount Donated Paid

  1. F.O. Mbadiwe ‘Okee oburuzo’ £200 £150
  2. M.O. Chima ‘Okwarauzoha’ £100 £10
  3. L.N. Obioha ‘Okpuruisiruruoha’ £100 £100
  4. J.O. Okeke ‘Okaa Omee’ £100 £100
  5. C.N. Obioha ‘Ezenwazuruahu’ £100 £100
  6. J.A. Ume ‘Omenanyaoha’ £100 £100 .
  7. W.I. Nwankwo ‘Ogbuonyaragu’ £105 £20
  8. L.O. Okoro ‘Okpataonyeoha’ £100 £10
  9. R.O. Okoro ‘ Akunwanta’ £100 £50
  10. R.M. Amakwe ‘Ochiogu’ £100 £20
  11. Mbonu Ojike ‘Okwuruoha £50 £50
  12. Ozuomba Mbadiwe ‘Ezediohamma’ £50 £50

Many of these major donors either redeemed their donations in full or paid a substantial deposit on the spot! Expectedly, the mood was one of high excitement.

The second day of the rally on December 28 witnessed more voluntary donations and displays of patriotism. When, towards the end, K.O. Mbadiwe dramatically asked for a volunteer to declare the rally closed with any amount of money, Mrs. G.N. Nwokeji stepped out with a one pound note to bring the colourful event to a befitting climax.

As substantial money was being raised for the college project, the spirit of discord was descending on the hitherto peaceful Arondizuogu community. The National College crisis which rocked the Arondizuogu to its very foundation was ignited by the Arondizuogu Education Trustee Board (AETB) in its quest for a suitable site for the proposed college.

The National College Site Dispute

There are conflicting accounts regarding how the issue of a site came to upset the equilibrium of APU, and by extension Arondizuogu. One of the more reliable of these accounts by Mazi George Onyeji, a member of the Arondizuogu Education Trustee Board (AETB), gives an insight into the background to the controversy. In a frank testimony recorded in Minutes of APU meeting of June 18, 1949, Mazi Onyeji said:

“In the first place, six probable sites were suggested. These suggested sites were visited one after the other (by the AETB) and in the course of investigation Ugwu Ndiamazu was struck off the list. Votes were cast on the remaining sites: Ikpa Ego, Ohia Ngeze, Ikpa Nkwo, Ugwu Nwuroto, and Ikpa Ozalla. Ugwu Nwuroto defeated the rest of the sites by thirteen votes. Mr. J.A. Ume, a licensed Surveyor was detailed to survey the site. Mr. Ume returned and reported that he could only get twenty-seven acres of land. The landowners of the site were interviewed as to the possibility of giving out the land for the college. Ndiakeme, Ikpeze and Ndiakunwanta whose lands are included in the site refused to give out their land…”

In order to prevent a recurrence of this sort of disappointing experience, the APU President, David. O. Mbadiwe at that time decreed that any village willing to offer land as a potential site for the proposed college should first clear the land by removing all shrubs and stumps. It was also stipulated, according to one source, that any proffered site must, in addition, be free of disputants of any sort.

Subsequently, the AETB conducted another around of ballots to select a site. Ikpa Ozalla (Ndianiche) was chosen by a majority vote. Meanwhile, Ndianiche in whose territory the site was located had cleared the site (as stipulated). Apparently, however, some members of the union harboured reservations concerning the location of the chosen site – at the southernmost boundary of Ndianiche. The fact that Ndianiche itself was located on the western end of Arondizuogu bounded by non-Aro communities as neighbours began to be cited as proof that the Ikpa Ozalla site was not central and, therefore, was not suitable.

In the wake of this anxiety over the location of Ikpa Ozalla, a powerful lobby emerged at Aba demanding a ‘reconsideration of the site chosen for the proposed college’. As tension mounted, an emergency meeting of the APU was convened in August 1949 with a view to settling the dispute arising from the choice of Ikpa Ozalla. In spite of the explanations proffered by Mazi Israel Aniche who spoke for Ndianiche at the meeting, majority of APU members condemned Ikpa Ozalla for being remote and virtually isolated. Accordingly, the site was rejected by an almost unanimous vote; only three people voted in support. The APU went ahead to select a new site; the new site thus chosen was located at Ikpa Ama (Ndiakeme). The AETB was promptly ordered to ‘start work on the new site forthwith’.

Expectedly, Ndianiche refused to abide by the new decision. They argued that, after all, it was much better to locate a college – or for that matter any other institution of learning – in the remote part of a town where studies could be held in quiet and solitude. By all appearances, this argument was faultless. The manner by which Ikpa Ama was chosen at the union’s meeting in August did not also impress Ndianiche; neither did it impress some other villages especially those whose proffered sites had also been struck off the list.

In consequence, sympathy for Ndianiche grew. As the dispute festered, pockets of dissent increased both in size and boldness; one Mazi Ijeoma Ijeoma of Ndimoko wrote to dissociate his village from the National College project; Egbo Nwankwo, the APU Secretary discovered an attempt by some people to compel the Union’s banker (Bank of British West Africa, Aba) to freeze the Union’s account; and Mazi Fredrick Ezeagu Kanu of Ndianiche (later became Eze Iheme) who attended another APU meeting capitalized on an erroneous omission of his name to demand for a refund of the donation he made towards the National college project at the Education Rally of December 1948.

Ndianiche also resorted to sending a negligible number of delegates to meetings of the APU; D.O. Mbadiwe, president of the APU, who was from that village stopped attending the Union’s meetings altogether. In this way, the stage was set for discord.

As days turned to weeks, the rift between APU and Ndianiche could not be reconciled; instead, it became progressively worse. Nonetheless, the possibility of a serious cleavage actually occurring did not seem to have appeared imminent to the APU. Indeed, the administrative hierarchy of the Union seemed to be assured in the delusion that a single town could not pose any real challenge to the rest of the towns that made up the Union. Thus, ignoring the protests from Ndianiche, the APU went ahead with the Arondizuogu National College project on the new site at lkpa Ama.

Following the announcement of the principal designate, and the appointment of L.N. Obioha as the manager of the college, the APU launched another rally on June 30, 1950. This was held at the National College grounds. It was dominated by members from the Aba branch of the Union. Prominent Ndianiche members of APU were conspicuously absent from the rally.

Undeterred by the resistance by Ndianiche, APU forged ahead with the college project. On August 7, 1950, the APU Education Council (which had replaced the AETB) presented certificates of ownership to representatives of the villages loyal to the APU in a colourful ceremony at the college grounds. The certificates were received on behalf of the communities by the following:

TOWN RECIPIENT
Ndiamazu – G. Onyeji
Ndiejezie – Nathaniel Onibe
Ndiakeme – Orji Obioha
Ndianyakee – Mathias Ugboaja
Ndiogbuonyeoma – John Nebeuwa
Ikpeze – Obasi Igbo
Ndiakunwanta – R.O. Okoro
Ndiuche – Simon Asuzu
Ndiawa – John Dike
Ndimoko – Moses Nwankwo
Ndiadimoha – Alexander Kanu
Ndindubuisi – Solomon Okoro
Ndiukwu – Joshua Igbo
Ndiucheagwu – James Nwosu

At the occasion, Egbo Nwankwo, secretary of the APU, buoyed by the attendance and enthusiasm of APU members remarked jocularly that Ndizuogu did not depend on Ndianiche for its existence. Such remarks excited already frayed nerves and gave further impetus to brewing Ndianiche nationalism.

The signs that Ndianiche might indeed be contemplating the ultimate action – secession from the Union – began to emerge on September 9, 1950; a shadowy group that called itself ‘ Arondizuogu New Organisation’ held a clandestine meeting. As recorded in the Minutes of APU Education Council and Trustee Board Meeting of September 10, 1950, Mazi Edwin Imo, a scion of the ruling Umuawa family of Ndiawa who was known to have attended this meeting but refused to divulge the identity of the conveners was promptly accused of subversion by the APU. Though only reprimanded by the Union, he was removed from the APU Education Council. Such actions by the APU at this time were intended to underscore the point that the union was not prepared to tolerate dual loyalty by its members on the issue of the college project. Still, the dispute continued to fester.

In view of these upsetting developments, the APU was compelled to convene an emergency meeting on September 30, 1950 in an attempt to redress the rift and douse the flames of dissent. Ndianiche boycotted the meeting. Instead, their leaders, D. O. Mbadiwe and C.N. Obioha wrote to the APU maintaining that the choice of Ikpa Ozalla was irrevocable and declaring the intention of Ndianiche to ensure that a college was built at Ikpa Ozalla whether the APU supported the project or not. The APU may not have thought much of this threat but it became obvious that Ndianiche had crossed the Rubicon.

On the 21st November 1950 a vote of no confidence passed on the APU by Ndianiche was published in the Eastern Nigerian Guardian issue of that day. Among its signatories were people from such villages as Ikpeze and Ndimoko where Ndianiche enjoyed pockets of support. The APU described the publication as “‘malicious and unfounded”. C.O. Oji and E. O. Uche of Ikpeze and Ndimoko respectively restated the loyalty of their villages to APU and denounced the purported signatories who had included Ikpeze and Ndimoko in the publication.

The parting of ways between Ndianiche and APU meant the withdrawal of officers of the union from Ndianiche including the president, David O Mbadiwe. Consequently, Mazi Albert Nwosu Igbo who had been nominated in September 1949 mounted the saddle as president of the union and, took responsibility for checking the challenges posed by the continuing intransigence of Ndianiche. However, Mazi Igbo of Ndiukwu who had worked with the early white Methodist missionaries for for over seventeen years in various locations and returned home on retirement in 1950 was not cut out for the intrigues of local politics. He was often unable to attend meetings. Given the tense atmosphere at the time, this was viewed with great concern.

As APU was embarking on the National College project, Ndianiche was also embarking on another college project. Against the challenge from Ndianiche, the APU solemnly resolved to proceed with the construction of the National College as proposed and to dissociate itself from the construction of any such institution anywhere else in the community. Thereafter, the antagonism between the APU and Ndianiche erupted into a bitter struggle to actualize their respective projects. The rivalry was fuelled by the belief that only the college that was completed first would be granted approval to operate by the Authorities. Even the District Officer, Mr. G.B. Smith, sought to intervene in the dispute after several warning letters on the controversial sites but his efforts came to nought.

As the battle to execute the two college projects proceeded neck to neck, APU was assisted by a stroke of providence to overtake Ndianiche in the race to actualize their respective projects. This came in the form of the fortuitous purchase of finished building materials (doors, window frames, cement, zinc, asbestos, etc) from the administrators of the estate of a bereaved medical practitioner at Aba, Dr. Solanke. This strategic move which changed the course of the rivalry was achieved through deft maneuvering and arrangements spearheaded by the Aba branch of the Union.

The foundation stone of National College, Arondizuogu was laid by His Lordship, Rev. Dr. Joseph B. Whelan, then Catholic Bishop of Owerri Diocese. The foundation stone of Iheme Memorial College was laid in October 1949 by Dr. Horace Mann Bond, first African American President of Lincoln University who was visiting Nigeria at the time as a guest of Dr. K. O. Mbadiwe’s African Academy of Arts and Research. It was at this occasion that Dr. Bond expressed the hope “that Iheme Memorial College, Arondizuogu, like Lincoln University, would remain an everlasting monument of African achievement” which has became a cliche for Ihemgram students ever since. (Bond’s Son, Horace Julian Bond, rose to become President of the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP), America’s foremost civil rights group).

The two schools, however, were both granted approvals by the authorities. On November 24, 1951 the National College Arondizuogu was officially declared open. The formal opening of the National College was a grand affair; many months later, congratulatory messages continued to pour into the Union from friends and well-wishers all over the country. The first principal of the National College was A.O. Anyaoha. The opening of Iheme College soon after was no less impressive. The pioneer principal of Iheme College was D.K. Onwenu who had been a key activist of the APU and, on many occasions, its acting secretary. Both men were intellectual firebrands at the time.

The arrival of the foundation students was marked with a mini-convocation in the college grounds. A restless and eloquent man, Onwenu’s stay at lheme was brief. He left soon after to head the English Department at the older Dennis Memorial Grammar School (DMGS), Onitsha. Onwenu became the Principal Secretary of the lbo State Union in 1954 and was later elected Deputy Mayor of Port Harcourt. Such was the calibre of men who laid the foundation for the academic excellence which was to become the hallmark of the two colleges in the years to come.

One source of grave concern to the union at this time was the continuing absence of the APU President from the union’s meetings. The APU responded to the inability of A.N. Igbo to keep up with regular attendance at the union’s meeting by electing the Vice President, D.T. Okoro, in his stead on December 28, 1953. This was especially necessitated by the need to ensure that the union had a diligent and consistent generalissimo to prosecute the ‘war’ of the two colleges.

Aside from occasional government grants, the Arondizuogu National College was principally financed through compulsory levies, loans and donations. The use of force in the collection of these levies was approved by the APU. The July 1945 meeting of the union had endorsed a motion that: “all centres (branches) are advised to use any means, force or otherwise to collect the college fund in case a gentle means to do so fails (sic)” [see Minutes of APU meeting of July 11, 1945]. Again in December 1951, it was explicitly stated that “in the event of any trouble amounting from the collection, the APU will shoulder the responsibility of supporting in every way the collectors of the levy”. (See Minutes of APU meeting of December 27, 1951).

Against this background, a measurable degree of physical force and coercion was employed by the APU in the collection of the education levies both at home and abroad. In the process, some injustices were meted out by over zealous collectors. For instance, in February 1954 arrears collectors assaulted one Patrick Nwankwo Uche at Ndiogbuonyeoma village and seized a handbag from him for failing to pay his college quota. Again, the sum of three pounds, two shillings and six pence was forcibly collected from one Okeke Iheme at Akeme Ohiauchu where he was accosted by arrears collectors despite his explanation that he came from Ndiukwu. At Ndiadimoha, property belonging to Hezekiah Oti was seized in respect of his son who had been missing for more than two decades and at Ndiawa there were reports that the under-aged and students such as Emmanuel Udoji and Jerome Ajero had been erroneously levied.

If the collection of the college levies at home smacked of over-zealousness, the situation in the urban centres was not different. In fact, sometimes it degenerated into serious fights in township markets such as Ekeoha Aba where collectors accosted recalcitrant indigenes in their stalls. At a time, this exercise threatened the tenuous cohesion of the APU and interfered with peace in the antagonistic enclaves.

Ndianiche, naturally, was insulated from this aggressive exercise having been formally excised from the APU in December 1952. Even then, it may not be totally true as one source claims that the collection of funds for the Iheme College at Ndianiche was devoid of any violence. There is little doubt that Ndianiche people also suffered some hardship in the execution of their college project. In fact, sometimes, especially at the early stages of conflict, Ndianiche indigenes in the urban centres were also coerced to pay college levies. Comparatively, however, the burden on Ndianiche may have been lessened by the abundance of the men of means with which that town was endowed- an endowment which has endured to this day.

However, by 1955 the initial vehemence of the rivalry had been greatly assuaged, as work on the two projects had been virtually completed. Towards the end of that year Egbo Nwankwo, general secretary of the APU and prime mover of the college project died in circumstances that were less than natural. Egbo’s death opened the floodgate to an avalanche of tragedies; from 1956 there came the successive deaths of prominent Ndizuogu politicians such as Mazi Mbonu Ojike, Hon. D.K. Onwenu and Chief F.O. Mbadiwe.

With the demise of these very promising sons, Ndizuogu became united by grief. Never in the history of the community had there been so much outpouring of emotions. Also these tragedies served to overshadow and lessen the ill-will generated by the college site dispute.

The readmission of Ndianiche into the APU, however, remained a tricky issue. The problem was hinged on the implication of such action: it would automatically entitle Ndianiche to part ownership of the National College. This proposition naturally was not desirable to the bulk of APU membership for the reason that Ndianiche had not suffered with the people to erect the National College. In the circumstances, the Union continued to vacillate on the issue.

Still the situation where Ndianiche remained estranged from the rest of Arondizuogu increasingly became unacceptable to younger generations. In June 1958 a ‘vote of confidence’ was passed on the APU by the Kano branch of Ndianiche Family Meeting. The APU received the news with caution, even suspicion. It was decided that any reconciliatory move must emanate from the parent body of Ndianiche Family Meeting. In December 1958 Ndianiche formally withdrew their vote of no confidence on APU. The APU welcomed this official retraction in principle. Around this time, unfolding political developments at the national scene came to provide the adhesive that would reunite Ndianiche with the rest of Arondizuogu.

The Mbadiwe/Azikiwe Debacle

Following political disagreement between Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, National President of the National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons (NCNC) and the NCNC Parliamentary Leader, Dr. K.O. Mbadiwe, leading to the formation of the NCNC Reform Committee, APU declared its support for the Reform committee (Sklar, 1963:225ff). Ndizuogu also gave tacit support to Mbadiwe’s Democratic Party of Nigeria and the Cameroons (DPNC) which was launched in Aba on August 4, 1958. Ndizuogu youths were also prominent in the DEMOGUARDS, the radical youth wing of the DPNC which led the party’s campaigns in the Eastern Region. The APU and the AGDC mustered support for Arondizuogu politicians in that era. That so much importance was attached to politics and politicking may be garnered from the fact that even the rally of the AGDC was allowed to abort the APU rally of 1959. When DPNC lost the 1959 elections and K.O. Mbadiwe as DPNC candidate was floored by a little known lawyer, Victor Eze, riding on the crest of the mass following which the NCNC commanded, the shock and disappointment among Ndizuogu in various urban centres was universal and unending.

Suddenly, a proud and conquering people found themselves defeated and cajoled from different fronts. Ndizuogu as a whole bore this political misfortune jointly with equanimity. Indeed, Ndizuogu bore the full brunt of this clash of titans together with other Aros, for as has been noted in another thesis

In spite of the fact that he hailed from Ndianiche, Mbadiwe’s loss in the 1959 election was generally shared in Ndizuogu alongside the loss of face arising therefrom. Against this background, it was therefore not surprising when, soon after, Ndianiche agreed to pay the equivalent of college contribution paid by one town of equal size. Two other factors played significant roles in the reconciliation. One was the spontaneous scholarships awarded by the two pillars of the opposing groups, L.N. Obioha and C.N. Obioha in June 1959. Ikejimba recalls that the beneficiaries of the scholarships awarded by L.N. Obioha and C.N. Obioha were Mark Kanu and Godwin Anyaogu respectively. The other was the role of the youths for it should be noted that even after Ndianiche had been readmitted into the APU in principle, it took the persuasion and cooperation of youths in centres such as Aba to embolden them to swallow their pride and start attending (APU) meetings again.

Following the take-over of schools by the government after the Nigerian Civil War, the two schools began to suffer from neglect. The result was that deterioration of the structures in the institutions rapidly ensued. However, the APU could not do much without resolving once and for all its status in the two institutions. By an agreement reached in May 1986 between the union and the Boards of Governors of the two schools, the APU became vested with ownership, and hence, maintenance of the two schools. The powers of attorney to legalize this status was executed by Mazi J.G. Okoro, Mazi B. Uwakonye (representing the Board of National High School Arondizuogu) and by Chief C.N. Obioha and Dr. Eddie Mbadiwe representing the Board of Iheme Memorial Secondary School). Thereafter, APU refurbished the institutions, constructed new technical workshops and undertook the construction of security fences round the institutions.

Although the construction of the two pioneer colleges in Arondizuogu was characterized by mutual antagonism and great rivalry unprecedented in the history of Arondizuogu, some people see the result as a paradox and achievement of sorts. Many would not hesitate to agree with Prof. Romanus Ohuche, an Arondizuogu scholar that “we planned to build one secondary school and ended up establishing two outstanding secondary schools at a time when most other communities in Nigeria depended on government for the provision of such amenities”. Indeed, it is amazing that up till today, what has been achieved in post primary education in Arondizuogu has come through the efforts of the people. In this respect, the APU has been both an originator and a catalyst. Ohuche was moved to pay tribute to the achievement of “illiterate forebears who through such agencies as the APU and family meetings made it possible for us to attend school and reach the height that some of us have reached today”. Even as these two great schools into a shadow of themselves on account of prolonged neglect by government, we cannot stop paying homage to the vision and tenacity of their founding fathers.

Copyright: Uche Ohia, 2007,

(Culled from PATRIOTISM AND COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT, A History of Arondizuogu Patriotic Union by Uche Ohia, Aba, 2007).

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