Ohadike the Man: An Elegy
September 3, 2005
Ohadike was a man who successfully placed his village at the center stage of the world. He was a man who made the stories of his motherland, the Igboland, the household stories of Cornell, the Ithaca Community and beyond.
Ohadike was a family man. His children and grand children have been a great source of joy to him. In the last two plus years, Ophelia, Sondra and James shuttled between Washington, Jersey City and Silver Spring, Maryland and Ithaca to look after or to spend some precious moments with him.
Ohadike was a great man because he held many earned titles. He earned his first title in wrestling in the Igboland. He later added several titles: family man, musician, ordained minister, teacher, scholar and administrator. If you wonder how he managed to have so many diverse titles, it was because he learned, at a very young age, "to fly without perching on a twig," as the saying goes.
Ohadike was a wise man, for he knows how to mingle his words with proverbs and stories. One story that he untiringly loved to talk about was the story of Igbo prosperous women and how they fathered their own children.
Ohadike was a man of thinking and action. He cherished immensely the value of patience and hard work. Most importantly, he believed in the value of individual achievement.
Ohadike was a man of the people. He always believed in the cultural integrity and creativity of his people. In his writings, he celebrated their struggles, victories, and even contradictions. As if he was always guided by the saying: "Those whose palm-kernels were cracked for them by a benevolent spirit should not forget to be humble," he was widely known for his modesty and accessibility.
Ohadike was a man of vision. He made the notion of cultural unity among African peoples, from Africa to the Americas, the center of his scholarly work. Furthermore, he passionately pursued the history of resistance against oppressions in the African World.
Ohadike was a self-assured and knowledgeable man. He was quick to share his knowledge. He was always willing to learn from others; always curious to discover new ways and meanings. Besides, he was the most enthusiastic promoter of the research works of his colleagues.
Ohadike was a man of rituals. In his effort to bind the Africana community together, he libated or blessed our new family relations and additions, our published books, our promotions, our cars and houses. He also taught some of us the negative consequence of not getting, in his own words, the washing of new achievements.
Ohadike was a man of comedy and humor. He never stopped from making us laugh, even when he was in the intensive care unit of the Ithaca Medical Center. We all know that sometimes he sampled his jokes from Jerry Springer Show. And yet, as Andrew Rubin, our former student puts it: "I was indeed lucky enough to be one of the smiling faces leaving his classroom. I can remember with vivid detail his humor and kindness in every experience I had with him during my tenure at Cornell."
Ohadike was an accomplished historian, a leader, and an institution builder. In the words of the Igbo people, Ohadike "secured the breath of life." In other words, his deeds assure him of immortality.
To me, Ohadike was a dear friend, a mentor, a colleague and a brother. Chiefo, I am going to miss our special handshakes. I am going to miss the knocks at my office door for lunch or dinner trips on or off campus.
Chiefo, your remarkable spirit of friendship will certainly continue to guide and enrich our lives.
Chiefo, Keep calling me Ras!
Chiefo, as we always say to each other: Hakuna Matata! Hakuna Matata! Hakuna Matata! Chiefo, No Problem!