Each time I remember the exploits of Alvan Ikoku (alongside his children) and his unparalleled contributions to Arochukwu and Nigeria, I tend to cry and wonder why my people forget so easily how to appreciate their past heroes and heroines!
When I was gathering material to write the script of my book Arochukwu in Nigerian Politics that was published in 2003, I came in contact with a book titled Nigerian Heroes which was published in 1973 by the Federal Ministry of Information (one of the Achinivus had graciously given me the revealing book). In that book, I had read about, in thrilling revelation, the most distinguished, illustrious and rare contributions of the Nigerian hero called Alvan Ikoku in education, politics and teaching services to the country and Africa! No wonder the Federal Military Government of General Gowon then had discovered and chosen him above every other person of Igbo extraction to honour and emboss his photograph on the ten naira currency note in Nigeria then! The man’s contributions were unparalleled! I will forever be proud of Dr Alvan Azinna Ikoku and will like to emulate him in simplicity, selfless services to mankind, rare resilience and special love for Arochukwu – he was courageously different.
First, he graduated in Philosophy in 1928, before every other Igbo man or woman. This is what the publishers of Historical Flashback had found out and written in their June 2016 edition. Again, he had established Aggrey Memorial College in 1932, the first of its kind in Africa and when Arochukwu was a thick forest! Dr Alvan Ikoku was the first Igbo man to be confirmed with the OFR honour-award in Nigeria, just as he was the first Igbo man to become the president of the Nigeria Union of Teachers; the first Aro/Igbo man to be awarded PhD honoris causa of the famous University of Ibadan in 1965! Alvan Ikoku was the first Igbo man to serve in the board of WAEC (representing Nigeria and where he excelled courageously), just as he combined and collaborated with Kofo Abayomi and Dr Akanu Ibiam to co-found the University College Ibadan in 1948! Dr Alvan Ikoku had also helped Arochukwu to get tarred road to the town from the Premier of the former Eastern Region, Dr Michael Okpara. I can go on and on to write about this man whose name still gives many Aros jobs in Abuja and elsewhere, forty-six years after his death; a man who enabled many indigent but brilliant students to acquire Western education in cash and or kind, and had shunned wealth and properties’ acquisition in selflessness and self-contentment. It is important to point out here that Dr Ikoku obtained his first degree here in Nigeria – without travelling abroad to do so, as what Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe and Chief Obafemi Awolowo, among many others, had done then! I doff my hat for this genius of a man.
But till today, nobody in Arochukwu has deemed it necessary to celebrate this icon of a man and or thought it necessary to honour him with a foundation. No. We have been very busy idolising and glorifying our individual selves, giving and singing our own praises ourselves in vanity! This is a very sad commentary.
So, let those who live now remember those who have left legacies for us in Arochukwu and mankind in general. This is why we want Alvan Ikoku Foundation now.
Yes; we need it now. Very few of us can try what Alvan Ikoku (and, indeed, his children) did for Arochukwu, Nigeria and mankind. Yes, our selfish life styles, unpatriotic strings, me-first, others-last thinking and uncaring attitude may not allow us to do so.
Or do you think otherwise?