By Uche Nwosu
At an obscure, neglected and isolated axis of the Abia State College of Education (Technical), Arochukwu lies the waning effigy of a statesman, revolutionist, educationist, politician, activist, nationalist and Igbo leader, Dr Alvan Azinna Ikoku. Time was when this legendary iconic leader shocked the fabrics of this land in all spheres, especially in education, politics and nationalism.
Today, the remains of this once legendary leader lie desolate in a relic grave, with the statue defaced and worn out as weeds compete for space in the arcade where the effigy stands at Amanagwu, Arochukwu. The pavilion also hosts a number of wild animals; rodents and reptiles, as the educationist continues to mourn in his grave as a result of prolonged neglect.
It will be recalled that Alvan Ikoku, together with the likes of Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe, Dr Michael Okpara, Dr Akanu Ibiam, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Alhaji Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, Alhaji Ahmadu Bello, Mallam Aminu Kano boldly took the gauntlet with these noble fellow compatriots and outwitted, outclassed, outflanked and indeed confuted the colonialists in their best of diplomacy and invincibility. He and these nationalists navigated the terrain with virtue, benevolence and humanism.
Ikoku, in his voyage to advance the cause of humanity pioneered the virtues of revolutionary education and ensured that the younger generations acquired the white man’s education because as a visionary leader, Alvan saw education as the springboard to develop the nation they were fighting for. The modest leader took a regal bearing on selflessness, preferring to give his best to humanity than serve in self glory. He was indeed seen as a revolutionary educationist being the man that introduced carpentry as a subject in schools in the 1950s.
But regrettably, Alvan Ikoku today lies ingloriously with his wife, Goomsu Ikoku side by side in a bushy, rodent-infested arcade, called Independent Park. Passersby only notice the rustic statue as Ikoku literarily cries for attention as they passed. The iron barricades are no less rustic. The College says it honoured Alvan Ikoku by naming the multimillion naira College’s library after him, but natives believed that he has not been honoured enough.
More, they contended, should have been done to the man whose face adorns the N10 Nigeria’s currency. However, an Arochukwu-born philanthropist, they told our Reporter, had gone to inspect the arena early this year and had made some promises of erecting a befitting tomb for both this Nigeria’s foremost educationist and his wife, Goomsu.
The Provost of College of Education (Technical), Dr Philip Nto insisted that the tombs of Alvan and Goomsu were regularly maintained by the school authorities. But there is no evidence to show that the two tombs had witnessed any face-lifting in the past one year. The arcade that houses the tombs with (Alvan’s Statue) and his wife is located at the boundary of Amanagwu, Arochukwu with the College; far removed from the buildings of the school.
A pathway separates it with the ancient city. People who use the pathway as thoroughfare are hardly aware that a man who once bestrode with awe the academic landscape of Africa is restlessly sleeping at the neglected arcade with his wife; both iconic personalities lie side by side with only the statue of Ikoku upstanding.
Indeed, the College’s premises is where the famous Aggrey Memorial College, Arochukwu was before the College of Education (Technical), Arochukwu, established by the Abia State government in 1993 took over the premises. A co-educational secondary school which he founded in 1931, Aggrey Memorial made remarkable waves during and after the colonial days. Most of the big names in political and socioeconomic spheres in Nigeria passed through the school known simply as Aggrey memorial.
The large premises belonged to him, according to sources, even as the source stated that he (Alvan Ikoku) built his residential home at a lush corner near the main gate of the then Aggrey Memorial. He reportedly built some of the structures which today still stand there, appearing depressed, dilapidated rustic and smothered because old age. The College of Education inherited them, but nothing is done to make them a historical monument. The Aggrey Memorial, like other schools in the then East Central State, was taken over by the state government in 1970, shortly after the Nigeria civil war.
However, the Abia State government in its wisdom on the creation of the state, decided to relocate the school to another part of Arochukwu in order to pave way for a higher institution of learning in honour of the foremost educationist. Nto lamented that the College, until he came to assume duties there, was in coma, and that he met on ground dilapidated institution on assumption of office, some built by the late Alvan Ikoku.
Our Reporter who visited the school saw some of the structures built by Alvan Ikoku still standing, though highly relict and smothered. His residential house was about to be demolished as at the time of the visit, so also were few artifacts he erected as a lover of education. These are the relics that should have been preserved as national monuments.
Historically, the Ukpabi Asika-led East Central State, in honour of Mazi Alvan Ikoku renamed the Teachers College, Owerri established by Eastern Nigeria government of Michael Okpara in 1963 to Alvan Ikoku College of Education, Owerri. The school is now Alvan Ikoku Federal University of Education, Owerri. And that is the only legacy bestowed to the great sage in in Igbo land. A native of Arochukwu told our Reporter that if Dr Alvan Ikoku could be honoured elsewhere what prevents him from being honoured at home?
“When I took, I met some of the building erected by Alvan Ikoku in 1931; but some of them were not useable as at the time I moved in”, Nto said.
Remarkably, Dr Alvan Ikoku, who was born on August 1,1900 at Amanagwu, Arochukwu, died on November, 18, 1971 in Aba, after the Nigerian civil war, while his wife Goomsu born in 1910, died 1982. A product of Hope Waddel Training Institute, Calabar, Alvan Ikoku graduated from the University of London in 1928. He started his early education at Arochukwu Government Primary School.
Goomsu, his wife, was an Efik woman from Calabar whom he met while teaching in Calabar (now capital of Cross River state. In 1962, Ikoku advocated for the Education Bill of Rights for primary school education to be free for six years across the country and also for indigenous languages to be taught in schools
As a nationalist, Alvan was one of the leaders of the United National Independence Party (UNIP) formed in 1946. The question is: why has Dr Alvan Ikoku been abandoned? His children: SG Ikoku, a renowned politician with socialism bent, Professor Chimere Ikoku, former Vice Chancellor, University of Nigeria Nsukka (UNN), Ekanem Ikoku and Gloria also made waves in their own times.
Uche Nwosu is a two time Shell Petroleum PLC award winner in the year 2000;
He won the Shell Award on Investigative Journalism and Environmental Cleanliness.