It just seems as if I’ve known Prince Osita Ike practically all my life. I remember that the very first time I got to know him, our host also let on that Prince Osita was the famous writer Vincent Chukwuemeka Ike’s son. I turned to Prince: “So your Dad is TOADS FOR SUPPER?” He smiled broadly and chuckled; his dimpled and infectious laugh got all of us there laughing – and thus he became my “big brother for life”. Prince Osita Ike never ever acted like the privileged offspring of accomplished parents. His mother, Professor Bimpe Ike, is a foremost library scientist and was National Coordinator, National Documentation & Information Centre for Science and Technology. She was once the Dean, Students’ Affairs, Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University, Bauchi. She met the late wordsmith who was to become her husband at the University College, Ibadan. Famous in her own right (she’s listed in Africa’s Who is Who), she also had famous year-mates at college, like the former Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, Emeka Anyaoku.
Prince Osita Ike was very interested in both literary and creative arts. His company, Oyster St Iyke Ltd, was a media and public relations consultancy, but Prince was a real arts promoter. He was also very concerned about the less privileged, and was always available for charity events that would be beneficial to some disadvantaged sectors of people in society. The perfect gentleman, nice to a fault, Prince Osita was also the classic: tall, dark and handsome! Such endowments are rarely unaccompanied by large doses of pomposity – by the time you throw in distinguished parents, you would expect to have a really arrogant fellow! Okay then, at the very least, if he wasn’t proud then maybe he could have been a bit stuffy; rather boring – a nerd! No, Prince seemed to have been blessed with just the right combination of everything, and he was very funny, and loved to tease people! Professionally, Prince was sort of like the link to all major events and programmes in Lagos, and he always made sure he got all his acquaintances on board. Even so, picking and dropping me and others to and from event venues was non-negotiable, once he had taken you under his wings. Now, a lot of the stuff we did then was voluntary, but on the occasions where events were paid for, Prince diligently ensured that we all got our money. Prince handled government projects, private initiatives, UNICEF programmes, name it, he handled it very well too. If Nigeria was the kind of country that recognised and rewarded merit, or talent, Prince Osita Ike was the sort of person any president would want as Minister of the Interior, or of Arts & Culture or even Tourism. He would have fitted right in, in International affairs and Diplomacy. On that level, I felt a sense of kinship with him because I have “academic” parents just like he had. They (our parents) saw Nigeria slide downhill from meritocracy to man-know-man style. But after our folks had benefited from the good before it all went bad, they simply remained in their comfort zone, leaving the next generation to “find their own way”. But it is rare for brilliance or diligence alone to be the deciding factor for appointments or employment in Nigeria. It would still take one extra – one influential person putting in a word – for things to get done. Strangely, these academic types seem to frequently believe that “charity begins outside”! I admired Prince Osita because he never expected his parents to put in a word to ANYONE on his behalf. I, on the other hand, grew very bitter over what I termed my “unluckiest, lucky state”. But as time went on and with new found faith in God, I came to realise one truth in life – that is, help comes from Above. However, it is still hard for me to understand how those influential folks could not possibly have made their one son known to their state governor who would gladly have given Prince a portfolio to manage. God knows Prince Osita would have performed fantastically. For about a decade, Prince and I were out of touch, and I am not on Facebook where his passing on was loudly announced, and that was how I completely missed that piece of information. I last saw him in 2011 at a state anniversary celebration in Akwa Ibom. I know he was constantly sniffing and clearing his nose, but I never imagined that a massive asthma attack would lead to his sudden death five years later. And I would only get to hear of it this January. Now I know I’ve got to be a lot more active on social media… Prince Osita was very proud of his wife, a Bini Princess, when he got married. He spoke glowingly of her in private and even in the press. I never met her myself – but I am gutted by all I have read and heard – contributing to the painful demise of Prof Chukwuemeka Ike, the person the BBC described as “the Nigerian king who served Toads for Supper”. It is saddening to think of Prince Osita even having a marriage breakdown. Prince comes from a loving family and is a wonderful and considerate person himself. It all seems to buttress the saying out there that the nice guys appear to always have horrible things happening to them. What it means too is that Prince must have been in agonies, longing for his son. The humble, genial Osita Ike I know would’ve been a loving and caring husband and father. To have been deprived of both sources must have been awful not only for him, but for his precious parents. If only he had sued for a proper divorce, maybe then his estranged wife would have been compelled by the courts to at least grant visitation/ holiday rights. Imagine, depriving people of their only son/grandson; just imagine the impact on them! I read a lot of people saying all sorts of unkind things on social media in reaction to the death of Chukwuemeka Ike. A number of people said things like – that’s why it’s best to marry “your own people”. If Prince Osita had not married the Bini Princess, Chukwuemeka Ike would not have been deprived of his grandson etc. This is annoying. In any case which is even Prince Osita’s “kind”? None of those writing this stopped for one moment to think and see that Prince Osita himself is of a Yoruba mother and Ibo father! And again, for the records, Prince actually “became” an only child after an earlier tragedy. I do remember him telling me that they were two brothers before, but one of them died (I think he said during the Nigerian civil war). Let me end by appealing to anyone who knows those involved in keeping Chukwuemeka Ike Jnr away to have some human sympathy for the grieving grandmother and do whatever it will take to have him at the funeral of his erudite grandfather. Whatever it will take, just let the only grandson be at Chukwuemeka Ike’s funeral