Reuben Ibekwe Uzoma was a Member of the Eastern Regional Assembly- under the Self-Government MacPherson Constitution of 1951 -who served as the first Minister of Education in the Eastern Regional Government from 1951 to 1953.
His colleagues in the education portfolio at the time, across the nascent Nigerian Federation, included Shettima Kashim, (Central government, under Social Services), Aliyu Makama Bida (North,Under Social Services), and S.H.O Awokoya of UPE fame in the West.
A historical biography of this influential First Republic politician offers some helpful insight into the evolution of the Nigerian Nation.
The book, ONYE-NKUZI, Teacher, Statesman, Icon of Education, written by Adaoha Okwuosa and Nonye Nnamezie, provides valuable material to understand the times lived by “Honorable Reuben Ibekwe Uzoma, OBE, OFR, LL.D (honoris causa)”, his immeasurable contributions to nation building and the laying of the foundation for the education sector in Nigeria.
The two authors of the book bring to bear their academic training into researching a human subject within a historical premise. Adaoha Okwuosa, the main author, is a political sociologist, retired Federal Permanent Secretary and former ECOWAS Commissioner from an academic background. Nonye Nnamezie, the co-author, is a historian/ biographer who honed her academic career as a lecturer at the University of Lagos.
Published by Safari Books Ltd, ONYE-NKUZI is to be publicly presented in October 2018 at Sandialia Hotel in Utako, Abuja.
The book sets out to show that a historical biography provides a record that is more than a ‘tunnel-narrative’ on the personality who is its subject. It is a rich store of collateral and archival material on Social sector development in the East from the 1920s to the 1980s. It also documents interesting aspects of the history of formal education in Nigeria, through the committed role of the voluntary (or non-governmental) agencies such as the CMS (Church Missionary Society), and the early educated elite who drove that process.”
Writing the Foreword, O. C. Nwana, himself a ranking educationist who has taught the subject at the University of Ibadan; University of Basutoland; the University College of Cardiff; University of Nigeria, Nsukka; Abia State University and Imo State University, describes the book as a “highly recommended reading and reference material for all who wish to have an informed insight into the important contributions of the Anglican Mission as a voluntary agency, in the early development of education in the former Eastern Region(of Nigeria). Against the background of the numerous challenges that have beset the education sector in our contemporary society, this book also provides a view into a past and admirable age of formal education operations, and of the teaching profession. It is equally a contribution regarding the strength and calibre of the great men and women like R. I. Uzoma who pioneered that regrettably now bygone age”.
Okwuosa obtained her D.Phil degree in 1975 from the University of Freiburg in Germany as a scholar of the Freidrich-Ebert-Foundation. Hence she draws from her background to recognize that the historical biographical style, which has long since thrived in European academics, has no yet received adequate attention in Nigerian academics. This is ‘because of the preference for auto-biographies, and the fast-track biographies that are written to coincide promptly with the obsequies of personalities.’ ONYE-NKUZI is a well- crafted contribution towards addressing that gap.
The book title derives from R.I Uzoma’s early career sobriquet as a young teacher and educator. He was popularly referred to as ONYE-NKUZI meaning—The Teacher/Counselor or simply; someone who leads the way.