The Life And Times Of William Ibeneme Ojiako, 1916-2006

Project and Seminar Material for History

The Life And Times Of William Ibeneme Ojiako, 1916-2006


The study of the life and times of Chief William Ibeneme Ojiako exposes the life of a great man who achieved greatness through hard work, patience and perseverance. This work studied his genealogy, birth, education and the various career he pursued in a bid to attain greatness. The efforts of this seasoned community leader towards the development of Umuchu community. His role in the growth of his local church and the good relationship he fostered in his business stands out to speak volumes for him. This work enjoins the youth of this generation to toe the line of hard work as was seen in the life of Chief W. I. Ojiako, rather than living in with the get rich quick mentality which has adversely affected our African value system.

Table Of Contents

  • Title Page i
  • Certification iv
  • Approval Page v
  • Dedication vi
  • Acknowledgements vii
  • Abstract ix
  • Table of Contents x
  • List of Plates xii

Chapter One:


  • 1.1 Overview
  • 1.2 Statement of the Problem
  • 1.3 Purpose of the Study
  • 1.4 Significance of the Study
  • 1.5 Scope of the Study
  • 1.6 Methodology and Sources
  • 1.7 Literature Review
  • 1.8 Organisation of the Study
  • End Notes

Chapter Two:

Historical Background

  • 2.1 Genealogy of Chief W. I. Ojiako
  • 2.2 Education and Early Endeavours
  • 2.3 Marital and Family Life
  • 2.4 Religious/Traditional Life
  • End Notes

Chapter Three:

Career and Business Ventures

  • 3.1 Teaching Career
  • 3.2 Business Ventures
  • 3.2.1 Early Business Ventures
  • 3.2.2 WCS Group of Companies Ltd
  • 3.2.3 International Enamel Wares Industry Ltd
  • 3.2.4 W. I. Ojiako and Sons Ltd
  • End Notes

Chapter Four:

Community Service

  • 4.1 Umuchu Improvement Union (UIU)
  • 4.2 Traditional Prime Minister, Regent and Onowu Umuchu
  • 4.3 Services to the Community and the larger Society
  • 4.4 Achievements, Honours and Awards
  • End Notes

Chapter Five:

Summary and Conclusion

  • 5.1 Summary and Conclusion
  • Sources And Bibliography

Chapter One:


1.1 Overview

The place of individuals in historical reconstruction cannot be neglected. This is because a historical study of a given country, state and community cannot be complete without the study of certain individuals and actors who piloted and or contributed to the growth and development of the society they lived in. It is based on this premise that we identify with the popular notion that events of history cannot be studied in isolation, but in relation to the people involved. The activities of heroes, leaders, philanthropists, teachers, community leaders and other people who distinguished themselves in their chosen careers abound in the African communities. These people have in one way or another contributed immensely to making their communities what they are today.

With the advent of colonialism and the consequent western form of education, African heroes seemed to have been eroded from the memory of Africans. This was because the Europeans taught African about European and other foreign heroes like Napoleon Bonaparte, Adolf Hitler, Tsar Alexander the Great, Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill to mention a few. The studies of these foreign heroes suffice till date in the departments of History all over Africa. Also, with the growth of African nationalism at the dawn of colonialism, attention widened and the study of African politicians and Nationalists began gradually to creep into historical literatures.

In recent times, the biographical searchlight beamed on community leaders and philanthropists who have encouraged hard work and selfless community service. The Igbo of Nigeria are known for community self-help efforts in the building of infrastructure and overall development of their communities. The reward for this is that those who have made a mark in their communities are entrusted with more responsibilities for the growth and development of their communities. These people most time are also honoured with chieftaincy titles.

Studying the biographies of these distinguished personalities who are either dead or alive, brings out their lives and Endeavours in such a way that the younger generation and the generation to come will appreciate their contributions. This is in line with the position of Nicolson Harold; that “biography is written with no other purpose than that of conveying to the reader an authentic portrait of the individual whose life is

being studied”1. In studying biography, the researcher should as well ensure that the work be like the close of a drama which leaves behind its feeling of serenity and in which we will collect a small bunch of those sweetness of life2. By this, hard work, firmness and community service will be encouraged.

Chief William I. Ojiako is a personality that cannot be shoved aside in the study of the history of Umuchu community3. W. I. Ojiako, in his 90-years sojourn on earth, lived for his immediate community in particular and the Igbo and Nigeria in general. As a teacher, trader, community leader, employer of labour, church leader, and traditional prime minister of Umuchu, he distinguished himself in selfless service to humanity. The current study anchors on the above to present the life and time of this great son of Ala Nso for posterity in order to study and appreciate this worthy Igbo son.

1.2 Statement of the Problem

Umuchu is a town blessed with great academics and historians like Prof. Ngozi Ojiako, Prof. Ifeyinwa Emejulu, Dr. Leo Nnoli, to mention a few and non-historians alike who have produced works on Umuchu like the late S. A. Nnolim. These scholars have in one way or another produced works on the socio-economic, political and cultural aspects of Umuchu town, but none of these works focused fully on the life and contributions of Chief W. I. Ojiako to the development of Umuchu. An exception is that some of these works made mention of Chief W. I.

Ojiako in passing in line with his roles in the community.

Suffice it to state that there is no work that comprehensively studied the life and achievements of this great icon of Umuchu. Studies of this nature tend to encourage students to embark on the endeavour to reconstruct the life strides of great men in their communities. It is based on the above that this topic was chosen.

1.3 Purpose of the Study.

This work is intended to study the life and times of Chief William I. Ojiako, the Okosisi and traditional prime minister of Umuchu: his life endeavours from birth, childhood up to his death. This will expose his giant strides, his road to greatness and his immense contributions to the development of Umuchu. The study is also intended to encourage Umuchu youths to pursue economic ventures that will create employment opportunities for the people and as well promote self-sufficiency and improved living condition for the people. W. I Ojiako was a hardworking man with a total commitment to the good of his people, and thus engaged on numerous ventures that attracted development to Umuchu. In the course of this study, the researcher will look at the successes and challenges faced by Chief W. I. Ojiako in the course of his struggles to great heights.

1.4 Significance of the Study.

The work will serve as an inspiration to upcoming historians to toe the line of this researcher by studying and documenting the biography of great men in their communities. It will also inspire the youths who have the dream of becoming entrepreneurs, industrialists, politicians, public servants and who intend pursuing a career in all spheres of live to emulate Chief W. I. Ojiako’s life of commitment, humility, hard work, perseverance and faith in God. By reading works of this nature, the youths will be better equipped to face the challenges of greatness. This work will also de-mystify the “get rich quick all cost” syndrome in our contemporary society, because “hard work attracts good fortune”. It will encourage wealthy people in our society to channel their resources towards the upliftment and development of their immediate societies. The work will add to already existing literature on biography and will serve as reference to students and scholars conducting studies on biographies and in the reconstruction of Umuchu history. The work will add to general knowledge.

1.5 Scope of the Study

This work focuses on the life and achievements of Chief William Ibeneme Ojiako (Okosisi Umuchu). The scope of this study spans from 1916 to 2006. The take-off date of 1916 was the year he was born, while the 2006 terminal date was the year he passed on to the great beyond.

1.6 Methodology and Sources

The thematic method of presentation was used in this study. The chronological method was employed in the presentation of available information, while the analytical and descriptive methods were also used in the course of this study.

This study derives its sources from both primary and secondary sources. Primary sources came from oral interviews conducted by the researcher with adults who knew the subject matter which include family members and close acquaintances of the late Okosisi, Chief W. I. Ojiako. The secondary sources were got from books, monographs, directories and personal diaries of Chief Ojiako as well as from internet, students’ projects and theses. These data gathered were obtained and sieved with firm objectivity.

1.7 Literature Review

Literatures exist on the history of Umuchu, but none of these is entirely devoted to study of the life and times of Chief Williams Ibeneme Ojiako. It is based on this premise that the current research is undertaken to fill the existing gap. The study of the history of Umuchu cannot be complete without a comprehensive study of this great man who contributed immensely to the development of his community.

In the History of Umuchu4, S. A. Nnolim looked at the position and size; physical features, climate and vegetation of Umuchu. He also studied the people, their origin, local amalgamation of the various villages and the origin of the Umuchu. Nnolim briefly discusses the political organizations, customs and feasts, contact with Europeans and earliest missionary activities in Umuchu.

Leo Nnoli in The Culture-History of Umuchu (from the earliest times to 1999)5 did a holistic study on Umuchu community. This study made the study of Umuchu very easy for one who does not know Umuchu, by merely reading Nnoli’s work. Nnoli systematically documented the traditions, legends and myths of Umuchu people from the pre-colonial period through the colonial and post-colonial era to 1999. He discussed the traditions, customs, beliefs and practices of the people, the impact of the Nigeria civil war on Umuchu, and the chieftaincy institutions in Umuchu. Political developments, social effects of the Christian missions in Umuchu and the social developments in Umuchu since the colonial period were given adequate attention. The work which is more or less like the bible of Umuchu, in passing made mention of Chief W. I. Ojiako and inspired the researcher to probe further into the life of this community man.

In “A Biography of Chief Dr. Ferdinand Anaghara”6, Ujunwa Ekekwe discusses the birth, genealogy, early childhood and the adult life of Chief Anaghara. The work studies his road to fame and the struggle of this icon to establishing the famous Ferdinand Group of Companies Ltd. The researcher also assesses his contributions to the development of Urualla. The work is an inspiration for the teeming youths of Urualla in particular and Nigeria is general. She opines that hard work is the root of success and wealth. Her study is almost similar to the current research except that two different personalities are involved. Both encourage hard work as a prerequisite to success.

In “The Biography of Chief Stephen Osita Osadebe”7, Festus Ajelli discusses the place of Chief Osadebe in the development of music in Nigeria. The work studies the life, marriage, music career and the philosophy of his style of music. The work is the biography of an individual but this time a musician and his contribution to national development.

Chiegboka Cyril in “A Biography of Chief T. Obiekwe from Isuofia in Aguata Local Government Area”8, studies the biography of Chief T. Obiekwe which exposes his contributions towards the development of Isuofia. The work takes a look at the Location and origin of Isuofia and the political organization of the town in the pre-colonial and post-colonial era. The work as well tries to assess the role of Chief Obiekwe in the socio – economic, political and cultural life of Isuofia. His work is related to the current study because both are Biographies of community leaders but the gap the current work intends to fill is the choice of studying a different individual from the same local government.

In “The Biography of Chief (Dr) Ukpabi Anthony Asika (28th June, 1936 – 11th September, 2004)”9, Anthonia Ekene Ukpabi delves into the genealogy, early childhood days and private life of Chief Ukpabi Asika. The work also discusses the man’s unique administrative style and outstanding qualities. She goes further to evaluate Ukpabi’s achievement as a political and public servant.

In as much as both are biographies, the differ in that Antonia’s work studied the life of a political, while the current researcher is working on the life of a community man.

Nnamdi Azikiwe in My Odyssey: An Autobigraphy10 chronicles his genealogy, birth, and childhood; and his journey of life. In this work Azikiwe gives a detailed study of his struggle towards greatness. The work also briefly studies his parents’ background. It was discovered that the Great Zik came from a humble background and strove on his own to fame and earth through hard work, perseverance, consistency and commitment to his vision and life aspirations.

Isawa Elaigwu in Gowon: The Biography of a Solider, Stateman11, gives graphic details of the life of General Yakubu Gowon, the former Head of state of Nigeria. The work covers his genealogy through his birth and early life. Efforts are made to study Gowon’s in the Nigerian army, the civil war as well as the post civil war years of Nigeria re studied.

In Anselm Abraham Ojefua: Priest and Monk12, F. Olisa Awogu studies the life and times of this man of God; his birth, early childhood and the pursuit of his vocation as well as his fight against social evils. The author further exposes the burning issues that agitated Fr. Ojefua’s mind and fired his pastoral zeal to guide the men and women of his time. Olisa Awogu also makes exposition on freemasonry, secret societies, the Knights St. Mulumba, martyrs of Uganda. The wrier shows how God powerfully used the talents He gave Fr. Ojefua white he lived.

Victor Ladipo Akintola in Akintola: The Man and the Legend, presents a vivid portrait of the life of Samuel Ladoke Akintudie Aknitola. The author leads the reader through his family background, birth and childhood Chief Akintola’s black days in England, road to power and activities in the Action Group during the nationalist struggle in Nigeria as well as the election crisis were given attention in this work. This work is a study of the life and times of a foremost Pan-Yoruba nationalist and Nigerian politician.

In Emeka, Frederick Forsyth presents the story of Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, the people’s general, former head of Biafran state, former governor of Eastern Nigeria, philosopher and Igbo leader. The work captures his background, birth, education as well as his interest in the Nigerian Army and the events that led to the outbreak of the Nigeria civil war. The work also studies his life in exile, of more than twelve years, as well as his return to Nigeria. Frederick Forsyth’s work centres on the life of a military man and politician.

The works reviewed above centres on the history of Umuchu as well as biographies of other people who had positively impacted on their immediate society and Nigeria in general. It is this perceived gap that this work intends to fill. This because this work studies the life of a devoted Christian, an accomplished businessman, a seasoned community leader and a philanthropist who had contributed immensely to the community development efforts of Umuchu community.

1.8 Organisation of the Study

The work is presented in five chapters. Chapter one being the introductory part of the work contains the overview of the subject matter. The problem was also stated in this chapter. It contains the purpose and significance of the study, the research methodology adopted as well as the sources of information utilized in the analyses of the subject matter. The scope and organization of the study was presented here. A review of related literature was conducted in this chapter.

Chapter two focused on the historical background of the subject; Chief William Ibeneme Ojiako. It looked at his genealogy, education, early endeavours, marital and family life. This chapter was also devoted to studying the religious/traditional life of William Ojiako,

Chapter three studies Chief W. I. Ojiako’s career and business ventures, which included his teaching and business ventures. It studied his role in the establishment of WCS Group of Companies Ltd. His activities at the International Enamel Wares Industry Ltd as well as his’ W. I. Ojiako and Sons Ltd.

Chapter four was devoted to studying his service to Umuchu community and the larger society, his achievements, honours and awards. Chapter five summarized and concluded the study.

All these were done to enable the researcher conduct an analytical and critical study of the subject devoid of bias.

Chapter Five

Summary and Conclusions

The world is like a stage with so many actors: both past and present. To live is one thing while to make a meaningful impact on the sands of time is another. Many have come and gone but few have recorded their names on the hearts of mankind. Chief Sir William Ibeneme Ojiako had come to mother earth and gone, but his name continues to resonate whenever one discusses the growth and development of Umuchu Improvement Union, Osete village, Umuchu, St. Thomas Anglican Church, Umuchu, Electrical Spare Parts Market, Onitsha, Awada, Obosi among others. Sir D.O. Umeh is his Tribute to the late Okosisi, lamented that, “Osete village has lost a teacher and an adviser, St. Thomas has missed a mentor and peace maker. Umuchu has lost a leader and director”. According to him, Chief Ojiako was a dedicated teacher. He encouraged his students to go for the best and make Distinctions and credit in both external and internal examinations. Contrary to this, he will address the student as “Bunkum” and that earned him the nickname ‘Ojiako Bunkum’ from his students. He was a gentleman of no equals and always taught his students to be neat, obedient and respectful to all, whether rich or poor1.

Chief Ojiako was apolitical but decried treachery and arrogance. According to Iwuejina Igbokwe:

No matter how charged any given circumstance was, he never lost his cool. He tolerated and accommodated opposing views. His willingness to accept new ideas and charge in pursuit of common good, his enlargement of political landscape both within and outside family, his willingness to delegate responsibilities wisely, his abiding faith and trust of the ability and capacity of the common folks in building of the community. His ability to share power and his penchant to praise and reward those who had served the community brought the best out of Umuchu, Alanso2.

Celebrating Okosisi, the president-general of UIU, Dr.

C.C. Ofor echoed:

You were indeed a great son of the soil, an astute leader and a philanthropist extraordinary. Your statesmanship was aptly demonstrated by the fact that while you lived, you served our great community, Umuchu in various capacities… At no time in all those years were you ever found wanting. You never perverted judgment nor took bribe or gratification. Indeed, you rendered (services) to the people and will forever remain our pride and the envy of our people3.

He further states that your death has remained a puzzle to the people, as you weren’t ill for a long time. People thought of questioning the rationale behind your death, but had to resign to fate and the belief that it was God’s wish and design that his beloved one shall not suffer the pain of death unnecessarily4. He lamented that the vacuum your demise created will be forever irreplaceable. He rhetorically asked whom shall we turn to? Who again will have the large heart to receive us and reconcile our differences without seeking to exploit us? Who again will have the courage, dedication and commitment to attend to the problems of Umuchu? He finally appreciates God for the gift of Okosisi to Umuchu community5. Chief William Ibeneme Ojiako was born in a humble polygamous family. He grew up to fend for himself because his father died when he was still a teenager. He had his early education and ended in standard VI. W.I had a brief stint in teaching and later moved into trading. Engaged in different business and finally settled for electrical spare parts after the Nigeria-Biafra war consumed all he had in the two companies he interest in: IEWI Ltd and WCS Group of Companies Ltd.

As a dealer in electrical spare parts, he contributed to infrastructural development both at Umuchu and Onitsha, and also to human-capital development. He played active roles in the growth and development of the market in Obosi-Onitsha.

W.I. played active role in community development, as a town Union Secretary and Chairman. In Umuchu chieftaincy institution, Chief Ojiako played significant role in the establishment and sustenance of this institution. He is a man of many parts.

In the Church, both in his community and in the diaspora, he devotedly worshipped God and contributed to the growth of the Gospel. He held many key positions and was honoured with different positions and responsibility in recognition of his commitment to God’s work.

In the family circle, William was a loving husband, a caring father and a true companion. Abigail Ojiako, the widow of William states that’; Okosisi was a man of his words, a shock absorber crowned with patience. He believed that God blesses one at His own time and was never envious of any man’s possessions. His life was a testimony for which she was privileged to being part of6.

Chief William lived a life worthy of emulation by the younger generation. This is because Okosisi believed in hardwork, perseverance and the special grace of God to succeed. He lived for his society. He hosted the women of St.

Thomas Church (Amanasaa wing) on the 7th of August 20067, which ironically That marked the end of his assignment on mother earth. He passed on to eternal glory on Sunday, 13th

August, 2006 to meet the Lord8.

Life’s worth is not measured by the length of time one spent on earth nor is it by the amount of wealth accumulated, but by one’s relationship with God and man. This, he did well by serving God as a devoted Christian and a Knight of the Church. For the people around him, he gave his life for service to humanity. Okosisi fought the good fight victoriously by diligently serving God and man, and will surely spend eternity with Christ.

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