Remembering Professor Ime Ikiddeh
(
April 11, 1938 - October 23, 2008)
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Introducing Professor Ime Ikiddeh

 

Born on April 11, 1938 in Afaha Offiong in Nsit Ibom Local Government Area of present Akwa Ibom State, Nigeria, Professor Ime Ikiddeh died on October 23, 2008. He was buried on December 13 in Afaha Offiong, the village of his birth.

 

Ikiddeh was, until his death, a Professor of English at the University of Uyo in Akwa Ibom State. Incidentally, he was hale and hearty on the day of his death and had even taught his graduate class prior to falling ill. Before teaching at Uyo, he taught and held several academic positions at the Universities of Ghana, Ife (Nigeria), and Calabar (Nigeria). He also served in various administrative capacities in the Government of Akwa Ibom State and the Federal Government of Nigeria. As writer and critic, Ikiddeh published a number of literary and critical works.

  

This page is dedicated to honoring and celebrating Ikiddeh’s life, mainly by the students who remember him as a caring and brilliant teacher and friend. He was truly a rare scholar, the type that many modern-day Nigerian students will not have the opportunity of knowing. And yet his compassion and eagerness to help and encourage remain unprecedented. We will truly miss Professor Ikiddeh, but rather than lament his passing we have chosen to keep him “alive” by memorializing him in a manner that he would be most pleased with—through penned words from the heart!

 

Professor Ime Ikiddeh: Rest in Peace Departed Renaissance Man

 

The recent passing of Professor Ime Ikiddeh, scholar, orator, teacher and literary guru will undoubtedly leave a poignant hole in the hearts of his numerous former students, colleagues and admirers around the world. This is a man who for sheer verve and versatility was on a par only with the Renaissance Man.

 

In the over three decades from the 1970s through to 2008 that he taught English and oral literature at the Universities of Calabar and Uyo in Nigeria, he would be remembered for his erudition, clarity of thought, remarkable mastery of the English language and an open, good natured disposition. He had a wonderful sense of humor and all who came under his tutelage went away highly impressed by him.

 

I first met Ikiddeh in 1978 at the University of Calabar. In 1976 University of Calabar was created and shortly after this time Ime Ikiddeh joined the Department of English and Literary Studies as a Senior Lecturer. But before I met him I already knew him by reputation. He had published a few essays on the works of Kenyan writer Ngugi wa Thiong’o, which appeared as introductions in these works. He also had this brilliant play Blind Cyclos in Cosmo Pieterse’s (ed.) Ten One Act Plays.

 

In 1978 when I was an undergraduate in the English Department of the University of Calabar, Ikiddeh bestrode that department like a colossus. He was at the centre of creative writing; he encouraged and gave direction to budding writers; he taught oral literature. The head of department at this time was a Briton, Professor William Stephenson who along with other dons and students acknowledged Ikiddeh as the undisputed Master of the English Language.

 

Ikiddeh lived up to this billing in 1981. During the renowned annual International Conference on African Literature and the English Language (ICALEL), Ikiddeh delivered the keynote address extempore. In the audience, writers present included Ngugi, Bessie Head, Syl Cheney- Coker, Nuruddin Farah, Flora Nwapa, Isidore Okpewho and John Munonye. There was also present a host of literary critics, people from the media, teachers, students, government officials and a mixed multitude. Ikiddeh’s brilliant performance won a standing ovation for him from the audience and a huge financial grant for the English Department from the Commissioner of Education for Cross River State.

 

My most treasured recollection of the man was his simple, down to earth nature. Whether unveiling the gems of oral literature to you or reading your creative endeavors, he was never patronizing. He rather placed you on a pedestal loftier than your own assessment of yourself so that you were motivated to fit into the mould he had crafted for you.

 

For instance, when the late Bate Besong produced his first volume of poetry Polyphemus Detainee and other Skulls, Ikiddeh wrote the introduction. In it he equated Besong’s effort to Richard Ntiru’s and John Keats’. Besong treasured this evaluation no end and determined to live up to it right up to the time he died.

 

If it were possible today for this piece to be read to the hearing of Ikiddeh, he would immediately tell you its author was a former student. He would not miss the ring of the prose, the turn of expression, and the choice of words even after all these decades. Of course the great teacher defined literary stylistics for his students and was a role model for aspiring writers and critics. We students tried to write like him, speak like him and some of us even tried to imitate his simple unpretentious style of dressing. I can recall vividly that in the four years I spent at the University of Calabar I never for one day saw Ikiddeh dressed in a western suit and necktie. Even during formal occasions he dressed humbly in a pair of trousers, short sleeved shirt made out of ankara cloth and a pair of comfortable slip on shoes. He smoked heavily in those days, his own one ‘moral failing’ I dare say.

 

 If to live in the hearts of those we leave behind is not to die, I say live on in all our hearts!

 

Vahid Ashu, film director and former student of Ikiddeh

 

Tribute to Ikiddeh

 

when learning was still an art

treasured and clung to

by a breed of youths

who have since ushered in
a new generation…

 

when learning was still prized

you emerged, master of words—

written and unwritten—

nurturing a breed of youths

with insight and laughter;

a blending of truth and warmth—

rare, overpowering,

edifying

 

and in this, the transfer of knowledge

could not have been more effective

 

yours was a far cry

from a tradition of unfiltered mediocrity

inventing a pack of ethnic professors

all professing bunk

 

from Calabar to a new horizon

astride a mythical realm

without boundary

you strode, master of words—

written and unwritten—

you baptized a generation

long before learning became

a hoax

 

you raised the altar

on which we sought

and found

rebirth

with insight and laughter

until our completion…

 

in your new realm

with new flesh

on a fresh trail

we ask that you prepare

yet another path

another altar

for this generation to find

another gateway

to rebirth,

to completion—

 

it will come

as a new wisdom

from the master

even with words—

written and unwritten

 

and for this

and all other knowledge

we are satisfied

and offer you

these words of gratitude

written and unwritten…

 

rest…

 

Philip U. Effiong, former student of Ikiddeh

 

(In Memory of Professor Ime Ikiddeh

A Great Teacher, Role Model, Friend, and Mentor)