Chukwuemeka Ike’s Struggles To Seem To Have Existential Worth

By Ikenga Chronicles January 11, 2020

Chukwuemeka Ike’s Struggles To Seem To Have Existential Worth

–By Dr. Ozodi  Osuji

Chukwuemeka Ike is symbolic of Igbos; his life portrays the problem with Igbos, Nigerians, Africans and black people in general. He was busy chasing titles and social accomplishments (that is, social recognition).

His life must have been intense, filled with anxiety, fear (especially, fear of not making it in life, fear of failing); he must have lacked peace and happiness.

This man probably was like a yoyo, pulled by society, things external to his self to attain them. As a result he probably did not know who he was and did not develop his inner core. This man must have lived a very unhappy life! Sad! He is emblematic of the lives of his fellow Africans.

They live and die as unexamined lives and do not know who they are and do not contribute to philosophical discourse on the nature of human beings.

Chukwuemeka Ike struggled to seem to have existential worth by seeking social approval; he probably did not know that worth can only be attained by looking inside him, finding out who, in fact, he is and validating that inner self.

How do I know this to be so? It is because I was like him. I was driven to succeed and as a result lacked inner peace. Yes, I am projecting what I see in me to him. If you think that I am wrong then prove me wrong; in psychology what I am doing here is called projective identification; that is how we understand other people. Mr. Chukwuemeka Ike must have lived a tortured life, as many Igbos live!

If only each African dedicates his life to doing one thing and doing it well, and forget about seeking social attention, Africans would transform from being mediocre to achieving great things in life.

The below is a portrait of Chukwuemeka Ike provided by Mazi Ogbonnaya, an aspiring young Igbo writer. As you can see from the numerous titles and accomplishments that Mr. Ike had, he must have been driven to succeed in life and feared failing.

He is a representative of Igbos; Igbos seek accomplishment and do accomplish many things. What I add is to point out the element of immaturity and suffering in these people’s pursuit of titles and other social indicators of success.

As the immortal bard, William Shakespeare, said in his immortal play, Hamlet, we (that is, our bodies) all end up as food for worms. Therefore, we do not need to pursue crazy titles and ceaseless social accomplishments.

 We just need to figure out what we are good at, train for it and do it with all our energies; in doing so we live in peace and joy. 

Bon Voyage, Brother Emeka Ike; it is left to those of us still on this side of the veil to learn from your futile struggles to obtain significance from seeking it in society and know that what gives us worth is not chasing after the chimera of social significance via social success but by affirming our real selves. What, by the way, are our true selves? Read my books to find out.


Born April 28, 1931, in Ndikelionwu, Anambra, Nigeria; son of Charles and Dinah (Ezeani) Ike; married Adebimpe Olurinsola Abimbolu (a librarian, professor of library science, and educational administrator), December 13, 1959; children: Osita Naanyelugo Adeolu Olusanya (son).

Ethnicity: “Igbo.”

Education: Attended Government College, Umuahia, Nigeria; University College, Ibadan, Nigeria, B.A., 1955; Stanford University, M.A., 1966.

CAREER: Teacher at a primary school in Amichi, Nigeria, 1950-51; teacher at a girls’ secondary school, Nkwerre, Nigeria, 1955-56; University College, Ibadan, Nigeria, administrative assistant and assistant registrar, 1957-60; University of Nigeria, Nsukka, deputy registrar, 1960-63, registrar and secretary to council, 1963-71; West African Examinations Council, Accra, Ghana, registrar and chief executive, 1971-79; Emekike and Co., executive chair, 1979—. Daily Times of Nigeria Ltd., director, 1971-87; Times Leisure Services Ltd., chair, 1977-1979; University Press Ltd., director, 1978-2002; Nigerian Book Foundation, chair, 1991-93, president and chief executive, 1993—. Nigerian Universities Joint Superannuation Scheme, trustee, 1964-71; University of Nigeria, chair of planning and management committee, 1970; University of Jos, visiting professor, 1983-85; University of Benin, pro-chancellor and chair of governing council, 1990-91; Anambra State University of Science and Technology, pro-chancellor and chair of governing council, 2001—. Nigerian National Commission for UNESCO, chair of culture sector, 1986-91; Nigerian Copyright Council, member of governing board and chair of technical committee, 1989-94; National Anti-Piracy Committee, chair, 1991-94. Republic of Biafra, provincial refugee officer in charge of Umuahia Province, 1968-69; headquarters scout commander in charge of Nsukka Province, 1970-71. Anglican Communion, member of General Synod of the Church of Nigeria, 1995-2002.

MEMBER: International PEN (vice president of Nigerian Centre, 1989-91), International Association for Educational Assessment (member of executive committee from Africa, 1975-78), Association of Nigerian

Authors (member of executive committee, 1982-83), Nigerian Institute of Management (fellow), Bible Society of Nigeria (life member), University of Ibadan Alumni Association (life member).

AWARDS, HONORS: UNESCO travel grant, 1954; fellow, U.S. Agency for International Development, 1962; Ford Foundation grant, 1966; honorary fellow, City and Guilds of London Institute of Publishers, 1978; honorary fellow, University of Iowa, 1987; named distinguished friend of the council, West African Examinations Council, 1994; D.Litt., University of Nigeria, 1998, and University of Lagos, 2000; distinguished alumnus award, University of Ibadan Alumni Association, 2000; decorated officer, Order of the Federal Republic (Nigeria), 2001.



Toads for Supper, Harvill Press (London, England), 1965.

The Naked Gods, Harvill Press (London, England), 1970.

The Potter’s Wheel, Harvill Press (London, England), 1973.

Sunset at Dawn: A Novel about Biafra, Harvill Press (London, England), 1976, reprinted, University Press (Ibadan, Nigeria), 1993.

The Chicken Chasers, Fontana (Douglas, Isle of Man), 1980.

Expo ’77, Fontana (London, England), 1980.

The Bottled Leopard, University Press (Ibadan, Nigeria), 1985.

Our Children Are Coming!, Spectrum Books (Ibadan, Nigeria), 1990.

The Search, Heinemann Educational Books Nigeria (Ibadan, Nigeria), 1991.

To My Husband from Iowa, Malthouse Press (Ikeja, Lagos, Nigeria), 1996.

Conspiracy of Silence (novel), Longman Nigeria (Lagos, Nigeria), 2001.

The Accra Riviera (short stories), Oyster St. Iyke (Lagos, Nigeria), 2001.


University Development in Africa: The Nigerian Experience, Oxford University Press (Ibadan, Nigeria), 1976.

(Editor, with Emmanuel Obiechina and John Anenechukwu Umeh) The University of Nigeria, 1960-1985: An Experiment in Higher Education, University of Nigeria Press (Nsukka, Nigeria), 1986.

How to Become a Published Writer, Heinemann Educational Books Nigeria (Ibadan, Nigeria), 1991.

(Editor) Creating a Conducive Environment for Book Publishing: Proceedings of the Second Annual National Conference on Book Development, Nigerian Book Foundation (Awka, Nigeria), 1996.

(Editor) Meeting the Books Needs of the Rural Family, Nigerian Book Foundation (Awka, Nigeria), 1997.

(Editor) Directory of Nigerian Book Development, Nigerian Book Foundation (Awka, Nigeria), 1998.

(Editor) Ndikelionwu and the Spread of Christianity, privately printed (Ndikelionwu, Nigeria), 2000.

(Editor) The Book in 21st Century Nigeria and Universal Basic Education, Nigerian Book Foundation (Awka, Nigeria), 2000.

(Editor) Creating and Sustaining a Reading Culture, Nigerian Book Foundation (Awka, Nigeria), 2000.

Contributor to books and to periodicals. Member of editorial committee, African Writer, 1961-62; founding member of editorial committee, Okike, 1970-71.

ADAPTATIONS: The Potter’s Wheel was adapted as a textbook for foreign speakers of English, abridged by Lewis Jones, illustrated by Anthea Eames, and published by Collins (Glasgow, Scotland), 1986.

SIDELIGHTS: Chukwuemeka Ike has been a successful novelist both within Nigeria and beyond its borders since the release of his first novel, Toads for Supper, in 1965. That debut was a comedy with strongly realistic elements, about a young man from a village who goes to the University of Nigeria and finds his head turned. Protagonist Amobi has been groomed and financed by his whole village to become its first university-educated resident; the village has even built him a special hut to study in, and the girl to whom he has been betrothed since childhood has been sent to a teacher-training college in order to be a better match for him. Once at the university, however, Amobi decides to change his major from English and medicine to history; worse, in the view of his Ibo family, he falls in love with, and betroths himself to, a pretty Yoruba girl he meets on campus. Complicating matters is the fact that a Lagos prostitute named Sweetie accuses him of fathering her child.

Returning to his village, Amobi encounters the displeasure of the entire village, especially in the person of his father, an uneducated but wise and powerful figure who bombards Amobi with what a London Times Literary Supplement reviewer called “paternal homilies.” The trouble with the prostitute is easily smoothed out since Amobi is in fact not the father of the child; his romantic entanglements, however, require a more difficult resolution that did not satisfy either the Times Literary Supplement reviewer or another British critic, Edwin Morgan of the New Statesman. Nevertheless, the last page was, for Morgan, the only flaw in the otherwise “unassuming, humorous,” and “wellobserved” novel, in which satirical insights blended neatly with “warm feeling for the realities of village life.”

The critic for the Times Literary Supplement, appreciating the “wry poetry” with which Ike illustrated generational conflict, called the “unpretentious” novel “a pleasing comedy, animated by a fluent, good-humoured intelligence.” The preeminent flaw pointed out by the Times Literary Supplement reviewer was an unevenness and a rushed quality in parts of the book, particularly the ending. Novelist Shiva Naipaul, reviewing Toads for Supper for Books and Bookmen, enjoyed its “steadying realism” and its “fine writing,” noting that the latter was to be found in the descriptions of village life and in the “moving” characterizations of Amodi’s father, mother, and friends. Like the other two reviewers, Naipaul had reservations about the ending, which he termed a “plunge … into sudden tragedy and melodrama.” Naipaul had words of praise, however, for Ike’s cataloguing of “the dissonances in modern Nigerian society”: tensions between tribes, between villagers and university graduates, between Christianity and native religion, between white professors and black students, and even between “the girls who can dance the high life and the girls who can’t.”

After his reputation had been made by Toads for Supper, Ike continued in his already-established career in educational administration, which had begun with his first teaching experiences in the early 1950s. In the 1970s he branched out into newspaper publishing and other businesses while continuing to produce a steady stream of novels, short stories, and occasional nonfiction books. The latter genre includes a study of Nigerian higher education, in 1976, and a book on how to become a published writer, in 1991.



Ugbabe, Kanchana, editor, Chukwuemeka Ike: A Critical Reader, Malthorse Press (Ikeja, Lagos, Nigeria), 2001.


Books and Bookmen, February, 1971, p. 41, Shiva Naipaul, review of Toads for Supper.

Journal of Modern African Studies, December, 2000, Charles Armour, review of Directory of Nigerian Book Development, p. 723.

Law Society Journal, July, 2003, Stephen Booth, review of The Chicken Chasers, p. 85.

New Statesman, May 14, 1965, Edwin Morgan, review of Toads for Supper, p. 772.

Times Literary Supplement, April 8, 1965, review of Toads for Supper, p. 269.