Answer to Prayer
Obiora Francis Ike was born in Gusau, northern Nigeria, on 7 April 1956. His roots are in Ezeagu, eastern Nigeria and he is Igbo by heritage. His father Richard Maduabuchi Ike and his mother Lucy Mgbafor, natives of Umana Ndiagu, Ezeagu Enugu, in eastern Nigeria were then living in Gusau where his father worked in the colonial days as a manager in GB Ollivant, a British trading company and an offshoot of the UAC, United Africa Company, owned by Britain.
His birth was an answer to a prayer by his parents, extended families and well wishers for a male child, following God's blessings upon his parents with three daughters in a row. His father notes that the birth of Obiora was a remarkable case of a child in hurry to reach and touch the world, because, "on the night he was born, his mother underwent a brisk labour, and had a quick and safe delivery in the parlour of our Gusau home at exactly 9.40pm even before the arrival of a birth attendant.Everyone was thankful to Almighty God for such an amazing miracle and an answer to our prayers".
His grandfather was Mazi Ogbuefi Okeke Ozoike of Umueze Ogene, Umuliuba Umana-Ndiagu, Ezeagu, renowned farmer, hunter, craftsman and revered priest of Ani Ebinebe, Ani Umuegede and Ani Ezimgbe. His grandmother was Mgbafor Ozomgbachi who hailed fro Ishiugwu Umana Ndiagu, Ezeagu, while his maternal grandfather, Ogbuefi Ugwu, a renowned orator, master story-teller, narrator, entertainer, singer and farmer hailed from Owellemba, Umana-Ndiagu. His maternal family is reputed for being the first to embrace western civilization entire Umana-Ndiagu.
A Chip of the Old Block
Obiora Ike is a classical chip of the old block, who in so many ways typifies the leading traits and characteristics of his father, Richard Maduabuchi Ike known for achieving so many first at a very young age. Obiora Ike is a good example of a child whose father passed down good qualities and attributes of excellent spirit and godly heritage.
His father at the age of nine in 1929 left his village for Enugu in search of the Golden Fleece, receiving education at Saint Patrick Elementary School Ogbete, Enugu and Saint Paul Catholic School Eke, Udi. His brilliance and excellent performance in the first school leaving certificate landed him an appointment in 1940 as a pupil teacher at Abia, Udi.
In search of better life, he left his teaching job in 1943 for Kano, northern Nigeria and was employed by the Royal Air force, 52 Brigade Command, Kano, where he served as a clerk in its motor division, until 1946 when he was discharged. Soon after, he landed an employment with the GB Ollivant, Kano.
In the service of GB Ollivant, Richard Maduabuchi Ike rose through the accounting ranks to attain managerial position, and during the period of his climb through the rungs of service, he lived and worked in several major towns of northern Nigeria, such as Zaria, Jos, Gombe, Kano Gusau and Nguru.
He was the manager of GB Ollivant, Gusau station when Obiora was born in 1956. he had earlier at the age twenty eight, married his lovely wife and mother of his nine children, Lucy Mgbafor Nzekwe and wedded her on Easter Monday of 1948. His wife, a sister of his childhood friend, Felix Nzekwe hailed for Owellemba Umana-Ndiagu, Ezeagu.
Joy and Pride
The first son and fourth child of his parents, his father named him Obuoha, realized in native Umana-Ndiagu diction to mean, 'heart of the people' which he insisted should be the baptism name of his cherished son, Obuoha, also pronounced Obiora, as a testimony of the goodness of the Lord.
His wish to christen his newborn first son with such a spiritual name, rather than an English name, as was the tradition then, was not agreeable to their Irish Parish Priest, Father O'Shea, of the Dominican Order of Preachers, who preferred Francis as the child's baptismal name, saying that 'there is no saint known as Obuoha'. The father of Obuoha on his part maintained that his lovely new born baby boy could grow up to be the first 'Saint Obuoha'.
After extensive dialogue between Father O'Shea and his father on the matter, both saw superior reasons in the separate arguments for their choice names for the new born baby boy and agreed to have him baptized as Obuoha Francis. The baptism took place on May 1956 art the Catholic Mission, Gusau and was sponsored by Oliver Ogbuanu. Father O'Shea at the christening day of 8 May 1956, prophesied that the new baby boy would grow up to be a Catholic priest.
Father O'Shea still lives and serves as a missionary in Kenya and has deep joy regarding the confirmation of his age-long prophesy concerning the baby boy he baptized as Obuoha Francis. Obiora has three older sisters; firs named Virginia Nwakaego Wife of Honorable Ozoekwem, second, Maria Akuabata, wife of Honorable Justice Eneh and third blessed memory Rebecca Kenechukwu Ike. His three younger brothers are Chinedu Cyril Ike, Afamefuna Anthony Ike and blessed memory Chikelueze Kenneth Ike. Nkechi Theresa, wife of Felix Egenti and Uchenna Geraldine, are his two younger sisters.
His family is extremely close and lived in close quarters. His mother and father related like loving brother and sister, husband and wife, best friends and confidants, while his siblings are their own passionate and trusted friends. He learnt humility, diligence, passion for service, faith, hard work, leadership qualities and work ethics from his parents with whom he had a very special relationship. Thankful that God put something big in their children both parents laid solid groundwork for their future and are happy that the children got further in life and making the difference in the lives of the people around them.
Early Age and Call to Mission
Growing up in Gusau, the little Obiora was tendered by Mallam Mohamed, a northerner, who also doubled as the family domestic assistance and residential security guide. At his early childhood, Mohammed taught the little Obiora Hausa and Arabic languages, as well as the Koran.
In the late fifties and early sixties, he was also in touch with other culture and mingled with Gusau natives from whom he also learnt Hausa language and the vicissitudes of their lives. This early upbringing among the native northerners also shapes his life and plays major part in his service to God and people. He also attended a Catholic church pastored by Irish priests of the Dominican Order of Preachers.
On 29 July 1965, Bishop Cotter gave him the Sacrament of confirmation at Saint Augustine Catholic Church, Nguru, with the name, Bartholomew. Father Fortune of the Augustinian order, who gave him the Sacrament of the Eucharist in Nguru on 18 April 1965, presently lives in Dublin, Ireland as a missionary Obiora Ike visited him recently.
Obiora Ike is a great lover of football from his early age. He recalls tht he was admitted as an altar boy in 1962, at Gombe, and at a very young age of six by his Parish Priest, Father Carrol, an ardent lover of football, whose interest in the game made little boys like him and eve older boys to flock to the parish in order to have a feel of leather ball.
Bright and too intelligent for his age, he started serving as an altar boy after the priest observed him reenacting the celebration of Mass with Banana, which the priest reasoned was the little boy's zeal for the service of God as a priest of the Catholic Church. These early backdrops no doubt enkindled his aspiration to the priesthood, such that when his parents moved home to Enugu from northern Nigerian civil war in 1966, at the outbreak of the Nigeria civil war, his ambition for church service was also transplanted.
Events of the Nigerian civil war equally implanted in the little Obiora the burning desire to positively touch and give meaning to the lives of the needy, the poor, the oppressed ant the downtrodden.
Inspiration by Bishop GMP Okoye and MU Eneje
The social and pastoral thoughts and actions of Bishop Godfrey Mary Paul Okoye and the spirituality and thoughts of Bishop Michael Ugwu Eneja, had very great influence on the young Obiora Ike since his elementary school years between 1970 to 1975, when he was mass server with Fr. Francis Nwokedi Ezumezu at the Sacred Heart Parish, Uwani Enugu, then under the supervision of Bigard memorial Seminary priests, namely, Fr. Ochiagha, Fr. Michael Okoro, Fr. Osmud Anigbo, Fr. Albert Obiefuna and Fr. Michael Eneja, who was then the spiritual director.
Zeal of a Child Refugee
The good works of Bishop Godfrey Mary Paul Okoye who attracted the Caritas International to the war-torn east coast of Nigeria, to offer relief materials to displaced families, also fired in the young Obiora Ike the zeal to do something about the plight of unfortunate and impoverished members of the society, who boast minimal levels of nutrition, housing and health care.
He in his childhood days as a refuge resolved to give dignity to the poor, hope to the marginalized, freedom to the oppressed and make the society a better place. This ambition to give positive turn around to the lives of the needy was also enkindled in him while he lived with his parents as refuges of the Nigerian civil war.
The early ravages of the war compelled his parents to flee their native town of Umana-Ndiagu, Ezeagu, with their children to live at far away Mbawsi Ngwa, Aba and Nkwere Inyi in the present Abia and Enugu States of Nigeria. At the war era, his family and several others forced out of their native homes, sojourned in the interior villages of eastern Nigeria where they were welcomed into homes of kind-hearted villagers. Some families lived out in schools, churches, market places, bushes and public buildings as displaced persons, warranting that their basic necessities of life were catered for by missionaries, who offered the war victims relief materials.
Loss of Role Model
The remarkably close-knit and loving family of Chief Richard Maduabuchi Ike experienced grief and sorrow when tragedy struck on 1st April 2003, when the loving mother of the family, Ezinne Lucy Mgbafor Ike passed away while on holidays in Johannesburg, South Africa. Ezinne Lucy Mgbafor Ike was a leader in the community and in the church as well as a renowned textile merchant in Enugu.
The sudden death of his loving and affectionate mother, his role model, a disciplinarian, care giver, kind, enterprising, industrious and God fearing woman, was devastating to his family, but recreated in Obiora the intrinsic and unquenchable thirst for bettering the lots of the people, which always as ever, reminds him of his mother. Although his mother passed on and did not live to share the joy of her son's twenty-five years of priesthood and walk with God, she will be proud of all the accomplishments to his credit.
At an early age of five, the little Obiora was in 1961, enrolled in the Saint Patrick Catholic Primary School, Gombe, northern Nigeria, eve though he was under-aged and his right fingers did not reach his ear as was one of the traditional tests for primary school admission eligibility.
His intelligence and ability to answer all the questions posed to him by the admission interviewers however earned him a class in the primary school. He recalls that 'in my zeal and eagerness to scale through the right-finger-to-left-ear test, I tried to stretch my arms to touch my ear by passing my right fingers across the back of my neck'.
This childlike enthusiasm naturally earned him the honest admiration of the interviewers, and afforded him the chance to begin elementary school at the age of five. He recalls that he was given the responsibility as a class monitor in his first day in primary on even though he was the youngest and the smallest pupil in his class.
It is remarkable to note that his father's career and frequent transfers to duty posts across northern Nigeria made the little Obiora to be welcomed into several Catholic schools established and operated by Irish priest in Jos and Gombe between 1961 and 1966. Other elementary schools he attended in northern Nigeria are Saint Thomas Primary School Kano and Saint Augustine Primary School, Nguru, northern Nigeria.
In 1966, following the relocation of his family from northern Nigeria as a result of the outbreak of the Nigerian civil war, he as a refugee was registered at Saint Patrick Primary School, Ogbete, Enugu, the same primary school his father attended in 1926, about thirty-seven years earlier. He continued his primary school in Enugu and in spite of the high frequency of relocations, the brilliance of the young Obiora saw him starting and completing primary education within five years.
His elementary two teachers in 1962 at a primary school in Gombe, Mr. Innocent Onwuamaeze, a native of Amankwo. Oghe, Ezeagu, Enugu, State, refers to Obiora Ike as an illustrious pupils of his class and notes "Obiora Ike was one of the most brilliant boys in the class. He was the smallest among my pupils. He was smart, obedient and very understanding. It was his intelligence that inspired me to appoint him as my class monitor and he gave my class happiness"
The devoted, pious, obedient, brilliant and kind little Obiora did not have any difficulties making his parents agree tht he should pursue his ambition for the priesthood, when he told them hi wanted to enroll into the seminary. Apart from the prophesy of Father O'Shea SJ at his baptism in Gusau 1956, his parents wholeheartedly expressed their consent for him to follow his dream in spite of the fact that he is the first male child and heir apparent of the Ike lineage.
He remarks "I have always known that I will become a priest and was always wearing the priestly mien and reenacting priestly duties and obligations having my young siblings and little friends as my congregation, blessing them, celebrating masses for them, baptizing them and hearing their confessions. In fact, I preferred wearing my flowing long robs Baban Riga, which served as my priestly Soutane and Cassock"
His primary two teacher Mr. Innocent Onwuamaeze, comments, "Obiora has a lot of philosophical instincts in him. The spirit of God signified in his infancy tht he would be a priest, a philosopher and a doctor. The evidence was very clear in our drama show held at the Jubilee Hotel, Gombe in 1962, the seven-year old small boy, popularly called 'Fasco' by his peers came out with an advanced learners dictionary, and boldly addressed the audience with a recitation he entitled "Born to Lead" declaring "I am a natural born philosopher and a politician whom God sent to save Africa from philosophical and political anachronism, imperialism and satanic jingoism.."
During his primary school days at the Saint Patrick Catholic School, Ogbete, Enugu, between 1966 to 1967, his class teacher, Miss Regina Akilo, now Mrs. Udeaba, who nicknamed Obiora Ike 'Tops' because he was always the overall best in her class and doubly promoted to do three classes within September 1966 to July 1967, signed in his primary five school report card thus, "Obiora is humble, honest, careful, neat, and highly intelligent. He has a bright future and must never slump"
At the heat of the Nigerian civil war between 1968 and 1969, Obiora lived at Nkwere-Inyi Achi, in the home of his paternal uncle, named Neihe, who was a traditional religious deity priest and from whose home he attended the junior seminary entrance examination. He performed very excellently at the examination and a strong recommendation from a senior the seminarian, now Father Patrick Ugwu, gave the young Obiora the much desired chance to be enrolled into the All Hallows Seminary, Onitsha.
He passed the entrance examination conducted by Monsignor Raphael Ezeh and was subsequently accepted to pursue junior seminary formation. Under the rectorship of Father Emmanuel Otteh, now the Bishop of Catholic Diocese of Issele-Uko, who with his students then operated at Ukpor due to the ravaging civil war. He later moved to Saint John Cross Seminary, Nsukka to complete his secondary school education. In his junior seminary days, he served as the reader, and performed lead roles in drama and football.
He distinguished and gave a good impression of himself at the junior seminary and naturally passed out with honours as the overall best student in academics, prayer life, eloquence, sports, manners, conduct, dressing and appearance. He topped it all by passing the 1974 West African Examination Council (WASC) examination in division one, scoring alphas in al the nine papers he registered for in the examination.
This feat indeed made his parents, formators and teachers very proud of him. His excellent performance at the junior seminary also earned him the love and admiration of may priests who knew him over the years, including Monsignor Stephen Ezeanya, who proudly posted him to the Sacred Heart Seminary, Nsude, Enugu, for a one-year apostolic work. The Rector of the seminary then was Father Paul Chinawa, and the eighteen-year old Obiora was in auxiliary teacher of English, Literature, Bible Knowledge and History.
As a teacher, he was an inspiration to the junior seminarians who nicknamed him, Bosco after Saint John Bosco. He was also nicknamed Bob by the students, some of whom were older than him by age. It is on record that most of his students including Fr. John Nwafor, Fr. Charles Chukwuani, Fr. Clement Obasi, Fr. Bede Abor, Fr. Anthony Ezeh and Fr. Godfrey Oleri, whom he taught in class on and two at the junior seminary, earned alpha trades in the WASC English and History subjects.
After completing his one-year apostolic work at the junior seminary, the Rector, Father Paul Chinawa citied underage and indispensability of his teaching service as his reasons for not posting the eighteen-year old Obiora to commence senior seminary formation at the Bigard Memorial Seminary, Enugu.
His junior seminary set that passed out with him in 1974 had already settled down to senior seminary life as at September of 1975, but he obediently continued his extended apostolic work as a teacher in the Sacred Heart Seminary, Nsude, Bishop Godfrey Mary Paul Okoye was then the Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Enugu. The young Obiora had in the early seventies served as altar boy at the holy mass marking the Bishop's installation in 1970.
He got his expression and unique ways from the Bishop and in order to equip himself to live out the virtues and attributes of the Bishop whom he admired his greatness, generosity and spirituality, Obiora found himself reading and learning so much at a very young age.
In addition to being greatly saturated with ideals and mentoring principles from Bishop GMP Okoy, Obiora providentially caught the attention and eye of the Bishop during an unscheduled visit to the seminary in December 1975, about three months into his elongated teaching service at the Sacred Heart Seminary, Nsude, when the Bishop arrived at the seminary, the Rector Fr. Chinawa was unavoidably absent and as the Bishop toured round the classrooms, he encountered the young Obiora teaching and said to him, "Boy, why are you still here"? Obiora humbly replied "The Rector wishes me to do another one year of teaching because he said I am too young senior seminary" Bishop Okoye replied "Too young and brilliant!, Jesus wants young people, proceed immediately to the Bigard and tell Fr. John Ogbonna that I sent you"
With this statement, the Bishop unilaterally overturned the Rector's decision for Obiora to continue the elongated teaching service. For this divine intervention, Obiora joyfully said to Bishop Okoye "Thank you my Lord" and recounts that as soon as the Bishop departed the Seminary, he jubilantly ran to his hostel, quickly parked his box and speedily departed from the seminary even before the Rector Fr. Chinawa returned and was briefed about the encounter between Bishop Okoye and Obiora Ike.
Worthy Ambassador of Bigard
In December of 1975, the nineteen-year old Obiora registered at the Bigard Memorial Seminary, Enugu, as the youngest in his class to pursue philosophy education along with more than one hundred and twenty other students in various classes drawn from all corners of eastern Nigeria, who studied at both the Enugu and Ikot Ekpene centres between 1975 to 1978.
Although he arrived three months later than his course mates, Obiora who was nicknamed 'Oxford' by his Bigard course mates, in his usual characteristics distinguished himself and today is a worthy ambassador of Bigard Memorial Seminary, Enugu. His course mates at the Bigard who mark their priestly ordination silver jubilee this year 2006 include; Archbishop Valerian Maduka Okeke of Onitsha Archdiocese, Fr. Dr. Daniel Nwafor Ani, Fr. Barrister Anyanwu Azuka, Fr. Marcel Onyeocha, Fr. Emmanuel Nnadozie, Fr. Gabriel Ezewudo, Fr. Peter Osuchukwu, Fr. Marius Ibeagwu, Fr. Gregory Adibe and Fr. Jerome Okonkwo.
Others are Fr. Olisa Madueke, Fr. Michael Ndive, Fr. Anthony Ikeme, Fr. Christopher Nwosu, Fr. Augustine Obi, Fr. Augustine Ihedimma, Fr. Anthony Egbosimba, Fr. Charles Amadi, Fr. Thomas Ebong, Fr. Clement Osunwoke, Fr. Casmir Chimeziri, Fr. Jude Onyegbule, Fr. Fidelis Ekemgba, Fr. Barnem Boniko, Fr. Clement Obianozie, Fr. Victor Ifeany, Fr. Godwin Okolo, Fr. Charles Okwor, Fr. Anthony Eme, Fr. Gregory Adibe, Fr. Anthony Ibole, Fr. Anthony Ubochioma, Fr. Michael Ehiemere, Fr. Cosmas Okoye, Fr. Nicolas Nwagwu, Fr. Raymond Okorigbo, Fr. Pius Nweke and Fr. Michael Ehiemere
Fr. Lawrence Aja, Fr. Joseph Okorie, Fr. John Uzuakpundu, Fr. Sebastian Igbokwe, Fr. Cyprian Ubaka, Fr. Eugene Dike, Fr. Godwin Aniaogu, Fr. Pius Nweke, Fr. Cyril Akalonu and Fr. Reginald Nnamdi are also in his Bigard 1974-81 class. His set of Bigard 1974-81 class providentially comprises first class brains, intellectuals and world class priests that attained highest levels of academic and pastoral achievements at young ages.
The contemporaries of Obiora Ike consisting doctorate degree holders, professor, an Archbishop in the person of Most Rev. Dr. Valerian Maduka Okeke and a Monsignor, namely, Professor Obiora Ike, were trained by erudite scholars and sages such as Archbishop Albert Obiefuna, Bishop Michael Ugwu Eneja, Bishop Anthony Ilonu, Bishop Gregory Ochiagha, Bishop Victor Chikwe, Monsignor John Ogbonna, Monsignor Theophilus Okere and Fr. Damian Akpunonu.
His other formators are Monsignor Cosma Obiego, Fr. Wilfred Essien, Fr. Nwokocha, Fr. Silas Umoh, Fr. Peter Inyang Etoh, Fr. Moses Orakwudo, Dr. Chuba Okadigbo, Fr. Alex Ekechukwu, Prof, Pita Ejioffor, Dr. Nzeh, Fr. Christopher Okoro, Fr. Simon Amateze, Fr. Cletus Ogu, Fr. Rodrick Cromley, Fr. Louis Asiegbu, Fr. Myles Rearden, Fr. Benedict Eboh, Fr. John Okoro and blessed memory Fr. Timothy Anunobi, Fr. James Calahan, Fr. Aaron Ekwu and Monsignor Francis Ugwueze.
At the completion of his education at the Bigard Memorial Seminary, he earned a Bachelor of Arts (B.A) degree in Philosophy awarded by the seminary in affiliation with the Pontifical Urban University, Rome.
Obiora Ike got a break of a lifetime in April 1978, when the new Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Enugu, Most Rev. Dr. Michael Ugwu Eneja, conversant with his track record of academic excellence, character and spirituality as testified by the Rector, Fr. Ochiagha, formators and teachers, who named him as one of the best overall students, penciled down his name to proceed to Europe on scholarship of the Jesuit Collegium Cannisianum for further studies at Leopold Franzens University, Innsbruck, Austria, where his older brother priests from the Catholic Diocese of Enugu, namely, Patrick Ugwu, Anthony Anijielo, Anacletus Omenka and Anthony Iloanusi were already living and pursuing further studies.
Fr. Patrick Ugwu was indeed instrumental to the scholarships enjoyed by the priests of Enugu who pioneered studies at Innsbruck, Austria. Fr. Anthony Okeke. Fr. Ikechukwu Ani and Fr. Geoffery Ogbuene later joined in for further studies.
Rector of the Collegium Cannisianum, Innsbruck, Austria, Obiora at Innsbruck, notes, "Obiora joined the Jesuit community on 28 August 1978 and during the course of his training and preparation was installed into office of lector and acolyte on 28 March 1980. He has continued to make sincere and intensive efforts in his spiritual life, and even after installations, he still takes part in the spiritual activities of our home and is ready with joyful heart to offer himself for service of God.
He feels at home because of his openness of character, he has been able to make friends easily and his disposition and talent will surely be of use to him in later lifer as priest. He would be able to communicate with people and gather them together as a Christian family.
In our community, he is a striking character and he goes about his academic work with aim and diligence, pursuing at the same time masters in Theology with a thesis entitled, 'Political Cultural and Social Aspects of Missionary activities in Igboland' and another Masters programme in Philosophy with focus on "Karl Marx on Religion and Christianity a Critical Study"
Elated Bishop Michael Eneja in a letter to the Rector expressed profound pride at the brilliance and commendable progress of Obiora Ike within his less than two years stay in Innsbruck, Austria, and gave his approval and blessing for the pursuit of post graduate studies by Obiora, foreseeing that 'the knowledge gained will be of help to the Catholic Diocese of Enugu which is in dire need of experts various fields of human endeavor'. He prophesied that Obiora would be 'contributing his knowledge not only to the development of the church but to the betterment of humanity'.
It is worthy to note that Obiora while staying at Innsbruck under the scholarship of the Jesuit International Seminary Innsbruck, Austria, enhanced the relationship between the laity and the clergy and attracted more people to the church by his personal disposition, his African dress code, his assertion of his Igbonness and African identity, added to his function as a care giver to the poor, the old and the drunkards, which also gained him the admiration of all classes of people.
Laurels form the to Ivory Towers
The extended studies of Obiora Ike in Europe also took him to the University of Bonn, Germany, University of London, England, University of Paris, Sorbonne, France, and the University of Dubrovnik, Yugoslavia. School days in Europe were among the most eventful days of his life and a good justification of that period was that within a short space of eight years, spanning 1978 to 1986, Obiora Ike splendidly zoomed into the ivory towers of seven institutions of higher learning in several countries, shone like the morning star, and brilliantly pursued and earned for himself chains of degrees and certificates namely, Doctor of Theology from Rheinische Friedrich Wilhelms University, Bonn, Germany, Master of Philosophy (M. Philosophy) and Master of Theology (M. Theology) with distinction from the University of Innsbruck, Austria.
His other academic laurels include, Diploma in Journalism University of London, Certificate in Economics University of London, Certificate in International Studies, Dubrovnik, and Language Certificate in French, Hebrew, Latin and Greek. His academic research work also took him to Plater College Oxford, England, University of California, and Los Angeles of which he is a member of the Africa Students Association. During his study years, he enjoyed several scholarships on offer for talented students from Missio Aachen, Germany, Steggerwald Stiftung, Cologne, Caritas Leverkusen and the Deutschordents Wohnstift, Germany.
Priest at Twenty Five
The young Obiora Ike at twenty-two years of age jetted off to Europe for further studies with total belief in himself and in his destiny, was encouraged by his natural gifts of rare intellectual acumen, skills and zeal, distinguished himself as a seminarian and was ordinated a deacon at the age of twenty-four. on 4 July 1981, he was ordained at the age of twenty-five by Most Rev. Dr. Bruno Wechner in a ceremony at Saint Karl Church, Hohenems. The milestone event was witnessed by his parents, sister and friends.
Pace Settings and Winning Streaks
Obiora Ike in his twenty-five years career as a priest, just as was the case in his early years as an elementary school pupil and seminarian, has consistently been a point of reference, a pace setter, setting standards and maintaining a paradigm shift from the ordinary to the extra ordinary. He has always been a winner and has maintained the unbroken streak and record as the youngest priest ever ordained in the Catholic Diocese of Enugu, and the youngest priest in the Diocese ever to be honoured by His Holiness, Pope John Paul II, as Monsignor Papal Chamberlain.
He is also the youngest priest in Enugu Diocese ever to be appointed a Vicar General at the age of forty-two. Prior to these,he earned two master degrees at the age of twenty-four, two doctorate degrees at the age of thirty, and became a University Professor at the age of thirty-seven. As a studentin Europe, he functioned as president of the Nigerian Students Union in Cologne, Germany, active member of Pan African Students Association, member of the International Political Science Students Association, Ottawa, USA and an activist against apartheid.
During his apostolic work days in Europe, he had the good luck of encountering Cardinal Joseph Hoffner, Archbishop of Cologne, under whom he served as Chaplain and pastoral director of the Deutschordens, Whohnstift, Cologne, Germany where he made eternal friends such as Lothar Roos, Martin Lohmann, Alfons Herwig, Winfred Muller, Charles Gessmann and Frederick Herweg and with whom he co-founded the Nigerian German Contact.
Also numbered among his friends are world acclaimed cardinals, bishops priests, notable philanthropists people from all works of life who embrace his pastoral and development works. The friendships he cultivated at an early age as a priest, holder of two doctorate degrees and professorial chair also have powerful influence on his life.
Apart from his several impressive academic attainments, his understanding and fluency in Hausa, Igbo, English, German, French, Latin, Greek, Hebrew and Arabic are also the gains of his stay abroad. His first priestly appointment soon after ordination was under the Archbishop of Cologne, Joseph Cardinal Hoffner, whom he honoured by establishing a printing press in Enugu in his memory.
It is remarkable to note that Obiora in his student days in Germany on further studies, initiated and arranged the founding of a community of the Daughters of Divine Love (DDL) in Germany, and in 1983, he invited six pioneer Sisters including Sr. Jane Francis Chioke to live, study and work in Germany.
The Enugu diocesan female congregation founded by Bishop GMP Okoye, his mentor, has with its German connections contributed immensely to diverse infrastructural developments put in place by the congregation in Enugu Diocese Invitations for working visits and further studies for the diocese clergy, religious and credible lay people arranged by Obiora Ike have greatly enhanced the inter-cultural relationship between Germany and Nigeria.
Bishop Michael Eneja was severally invited to Europe at the instrumentality of Obiora Ike, towards the building and strengthening of diocesan linkages to the universal church with all the follow up benefits.