OBI (PROF.) CHIKE EDOZIEN; THE ASAGBA OF ASABA: AN ICON ON THE THRONE – By David Diai

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Obi Prof. Joseph Chike Edozien, CFR, JP, the Asagba or traditional ruler of Asaba, Delta State, Nigeria was born on July 28, 1925 in Asaba.

His father was Nathaniel Okafor Edozien a direct descendant of Nnebisi the founder of Asaba, and one of the most senior indigenous officials of the Nigerian Coal Corporation in Enugu. His mother, Nwakuso Edozien née Odogwu, was the daughter of a prominent Asaba chief, and a notable trader.

His father sent him at an early age to live with an uncle who was a school master in Warri, Delta State then Bendel State, Nigeria. He attended the Catholic School in Warri from 1933 to 1937.

He attended Christ The King College (CKC) Onitsha, Anambra State from, 1938 to 1941; Higher College, Yaba, Lagos, (1942); Achimota College, Accra, Ghana, (1942 to 1943). His university education began with an admission to the University College Dublin, Ireland in 1944. He completed his BSc with honours in Physiology from the National University of Ireland in 1948, MSc in Physiology in 1950, Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Chemotherapy (MBBCh) in 1954. He won several academic awards in the process.

His academic career began with an appointment as a Lecturer in Clinical Biochemistry in Middlesex Hospital Medical School, University of London in 1951. Following his sterling academic attainments, young Edozien became a lecturer in Clinical Biochemistry at the prestigious University of London Medical School. In 1952 he was appointed as a Senior Lecturer in Chemical Pathology at the University College, Ibadan. He returned to Ibadan after further studies in Ireland.

In 1955 he married Modupe Smith a radiographer at the University of Ibadan teaching hospital. Her father was one of the first indigenous managers of the famous United Africa Company, UAC, and her maternal grandfather was Herbert Macaulay, Nigeria’s first surveyor and one of the principal actors in Nigeria’s independence movement.

He was Senior Lecturer in Chemical Pathology between 1957 and 1961. In 1961, Edozien became a professor of Chemical Pathology at the university, a position he held till 1966. By the fact of his elevation in 1961, Edozien became the fourth Nigerian to earn that academic title. Today, he is the oldest surviving Nigerian Professor in any discipline.

The late colonial and early independence period were exciting times in Nigeria. Educated Nigerians rapidly occupied positions of responsibility in politics, commerce and academia. Everyone’s hopes were high that in a short time the country would bridge the gap with the more developed countries of Europe and North America.

The euphoric mood permeated the University of Ibadan, and Edozien’s groundbreaking research in nutrition helped win it a reputation as a rising academic centre. He was appointed a professor in 1961 and became the Dean of the Faculty of Medicine in 1962.

Edozien’s career at Ibadan ended in 1967, a casualty of the political crisis that ended the euphoria of the late 50′s and early 60′s and resulted in the coups of 1966 and eventually led to the Nigerian Civil War. In 1967 he was instrumental in the efforts to establish the University of Benin in the newly created Midwestern Region of Nigeria. He was also implicated in the plots that resulted in the Biafran invasion of the Midwestern Region at the beginning of the civil war and was forced to flee the country.

After a brief period in France, he was appointed as a professor of Nutrition at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA.

In 1971 he became a professor and head of Department of Nutrition, of the School of Public Health of the University of North Carolina. In fact he was also Professor and Chairman, Department of Nutrition, School of Public Health, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, USA, for an unbroken 20 years, beginning from 1971. Between 1988 and 1991, he was Chairman, Governing Board, National Institute for Medical Research, Yaba, Lagos. Edozien became Professor Emeritus of the prestigious University of North Carolina in 1991, and has remained so ever since.

In 1990 Edozien was appointed the Chairman of the Nigerian Institute of Medical Research. Shortly thereafter he was selected to become the 13th Asagba of Asaba. He retired as a Professor Emeritus of the University of North Carolina and returned to Nigeria in 1991. He was installed on July 1, 1991.

Edozien’s tenure as the Asagba of Asaba has coincided with dramatic changes in the character of the town. When the government of President Ibrahim Babangida created Delta State out of the old Bendel State, Asaba was chosen as the capital. Its new status as the seat of the state government has brought much of the chaotic development associated with contemporary Nigerian urbanization. The population of the town has grown and the influx of non-Asaba indigenes has strained the traditional institutions of the town.

A central theme of Edozien’s tenure as the Asagba has been the challenge of balancing rapid development, modernization of traditional norms and institutions with preservation of the positive aspects and moderating influence of traditional values. Several on-going initiatives such as the Asaba permanent palace and civic centre and the documentation of the town’s traditional laws and customs have sought to balance these concerns.

Edozien remains an important figure in modern day Nigerian affairs. President Olusegun Obasanjo conferred the national honour of Commander of the Federal Republic on him in 2003. He is also the Chancellor of the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta.

Obi (Prof) Chike Edozien is black Africa’s first indigenous dean of medicine and royal father of Asaba clan of Delta state.

However, Prof Edozien is not only all about academics. He is a stoic positive symbol of the traditional institution, and, as Asagba of Asaba, he was, for three years beginning from 1997, Chairman, Delta State Council of Traditional Rulers.

At 89 years of age, Obi Edozien is celebrating not just his birthday in the capital city of Asaba, which is replete with history- positive history at that- but also his 23rd year on the throne of his forebears.

Prof Edozien is a perfect blend of Asaba tradition and western-style modernism.

As  a leading icon in the field of medicine and for his sterling leadership, Prof. Edozien has earned the national award of Commander of the Federal Republic  (CFR). He is Pro-Chancellor and Chairman of Council, Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta.

Prof.  Edozien is also a happy father of distinguished children by his wife, Modupe, who is a granddaughter of Herbert Macaulay, easily one of Nigeria’s fore-sighted first generation politicians.

2012 marked his 21st year on the throne as the Asagba of Asaba. Nna Agu, Nna Agu, Nna Agu. Asagba, Igadi kaa echi; Ise.

LINE OF SUCCESSION OF ASAGBA TO DATE

1. Obi Nenmor – Umuagu        1780

2.       Obi Ofordu – Umuagu    1790

3.       Obi Diai – Umuonaje      1820

4.       Obi Monu – Umuaji       1850

5.       Obi Nwani –  Ugbomanta        1870

6.       Obi Egbola –  Umuaji     1890

7.       Obi Onyemenam –  Umuaji      1910

8.       Obi Nwokolo – Umuezei          1925-1932

9.       Obi Ijeh – Ugbomanta    1937-1948

10.     Obi Emenashi Odiaka – Umuagu     1950-1958

11.     Obi Okocha Nwokolo – Umuaji       1962—1963

12.     Obi Umejei Onyetenu – Umuonaje   1964-1988

13.     Obi {Prof.}Chike Edozien – Umuezei        1991 till Date

 

David Diai is a Journalist and the National President of Anioma Media Network, AMN.

5 thoughts on “OBI (PROF.) CHIKE EDOZIEN; THE ASAGBA OF ASABA: AN ICON ON THE THRONE – By David Diai

  1. OBI AGU, DOBA LONG LIVE OBI PROF.CHIKE EDOZIEN,LONG LIVE ASAGBA OF ASABA,LONG LIVE DELTANS?

    Like

  2. Nna Agu, Nna Agu. Long live Agu and the Obiwine Mrs Modupe Edozien. May God continue to give you wisdom to rule Asagba.

    Like

  3. OBI AGU,DOBA. May u Live Long. may God satisfied u wit long live,more strent&wisdom 2 carry on dis ur great task ahead? Long live Obi Agu,Long Live Asaba&Long live Deltans. Obi Doba?

    Like

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