Coal City brought out the best in Iyk Ekeoma as the second half of the 1960s approached. An All Rounder, the pupil excelled in Track and Field as well as soccer. The grand finale of Phensic Cup for Eastern Nigerian Secondary Schools was a major attraction.
The Civil War came and the promising star abandoned both education and sports. Like his peers, service to Biafra meant enlisting in the Boys Company which supported soldiers with intelligence gathering and other barracks chores. Duty came with a prize.
Ekeoma said : ” I was seriously wounded during an air raid in Orlu Zone. I still carry the scars till date as a constant reminder of an inglorious era in Nigeria’s History. The most terrifying and traumatic experience was seeing my four siblings die one after the other.”
Losing brothers and sisters turned him to an only child. Luckily, the parents survived the war and were only able to have more children after those dark years. And that explains the gap between Ekeoma and his younger siblings today.
“I almost died too, having joined the Boys Company. I then became the only child of my parents. I was unable to continue with my education. I had stopped at Elementary Five by 1967 and resumed school again by 1970 following the surrender,” he explained.
With injury, Ekeoma did not give up on sports. At the end of primary education, he became a student of Apostolic Grammar School, Aba which was later renamed Eziama High School. The Athletics team was among the best in the old East Central State.
“Eziama boasted of one of the best teams in Track and Field. At the beginning it was a mixed school until 1975 when it became an All – Boys institution with the graduation of those who returned at the end of the Civil War in 1970.”
Eziama High School played champagne soccer in 1975 and it took the experience of Dennis Memorial Grammar School ( DMGS) Onitsha to stop them from lifting the East Central State Schools Soccer Championships. I am talking of an Osha squad that had Captain Nnamdi Anyafo, Nwachukwu Onyekwelu, Vincent Chika and Mike Ochiagha among others.
In the Aba team were Sunny Ikwuagwu, Idika Aku, Chimeziri Igoni, Okey Ohaka, Charles Kanu, Okey Uduko, Stanley Ojukwu and Orji Kalu. This Orji Kalu was captain of the team and is not the same as the Orji Kalu that became governor of Abia State in subsequent years. The latter day governor, was equally effective as Team Manager.
Ekeoma had left Eziama at the time but continued to engage in Sports. He played as a goalkeeper at school before veering into Track events. That Civil War injury was an impediment. However, the fighter did not give up. He switched to Judo, Weightlifting and Shot Put.
“My best outing would be winning three medals at the Imo State Sports Festival in 1979. I hit gold in Shot Put, went home with silver in Weightlifting and bagged another silver in Judo, a performance that gave me a ticket to the Oluyole ’79 Fourth National Sports Festival in Ibadan. Sadly, it did not go well as I was unable to conquer my nerves, flopping to sixth position in Shot Put.”
The man is a Jack of all Trade, Master of all. From Sports, he embraced broadcasting, acting, music, administration, education and what have you. Ekeoma is so versed in telecommunications that he went into IT and production.
I had to ask how he made the first move outside sports. He said, ” I started work as temporary staff at the then NTV Aba as a Graphic Artist in 1977. The TV House was transiting to colour broadcast and my duty included reproducing captions used for programmes, from Black and White to Colour.
“I was also producing backdrops for programmes under the leadership of Dom Onyegbule, a veteran artist and close pal of Ndaa Pal Akalonu. While in school, I monitored News Anchors like Chudi Onuzo, Innocent Igwe, Robert Chilakpu, Chike Gbujie and a host of others. Now, I was working with these my idols, at close quarters.”
The story got quite interesting. ” Mazi A. E. Ukonu was the manager of the station as it became NTA Aba. We had veterans like Tony Manugba, Nnamdi Nwigwe, Okwun Omeaku, Pal Akalonu, James Iroha (Gringory), Kalu Nsi and more.
“With tutelage from these veterans and the offer of a platform, I transitioned to firstly, Presenter of Programmes, with my first programme titled, ‘Do it yourself’, for young people, then an Announcer, after a successful audition, then a Newscaster.”
Ekeoma was Chief Press Secretary to the first civilian governor of Abia State, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu. He did the same job for Military Administrators, Col. Ike Nwosu and Navy Captain Temi Ejoor before working with Chief Orji Kalu, as Media Adviser.
Sports became even more relevant. Ejoor was Javelin champion and played soccer at Government College, Ughelli, with his good friend, Toni Urhobo, an All Rounder. Both buddies were lured to Hussey College, Warri by Chief Ogbemi Rewane.
Ejoor’s Aide de Camp, Omatseye Nesiama, rose to the position of IAAF Athlete Manager. Ejoor brought Urhobo, an accomplished national Athletics coach, to Aba as Team Manager of Enyimba. Some uninformed Enyimba fans did not know that the man was also a good footballer.
Remarkably, Gen. David Ejoor, Temi’s uncle and the first military governor of Mid – West and former Chief Army Staff, was a judoka, just like Ekeoma who also played soccer as a keeper. The younger Ejoor shone in soccer. Urhobo engaged in Body Building, besides Track and Field. Ekeoma did well in weightlifting.
To be continued