Death of Professor Gabriel Maduka Umezurike

By Uwadi Kenneth
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On Sunday 23rd January 2011, darkness fell over Egbema of the Ohaji/Egbema L.G.A in Imo State .The irresistible Professor(Chief) Gabriel Maduka Umezurike of Egbema died.He was 74 yrs old. He died after a brief illness. Very friendly and down to earth, his death remains a shock to many. Engr Peter Uzu my bosom friend stubbornly refused to believe that 'Prof' had died when i passed the sad news to him. I no believe am, na lie you dey talk,he said.

Why blame Engr Peter, when i too first got the news of his death, i didn't believe it .I thought there was a mixed up there, maybe,because of the name.But thereafter i got lot of calls from people who had heard of his death.Prof Umezurike was such a nice fellow, not only to those who were close to him but also to even those who chanced him. It is a big shock,a rude shock to say the least. Prof was nice to everybody. He was worshiped in Egbema like a god. Everybody that has come in contact with 'Prof' will tell you he was a good man. He helped everybody from the very little to the very old, from the lowest to the highest. He had friends all over, friends that cut across all ethnic backgrounds.

Who is this Prof you are talking about, Ndubuisi Nweke, my colleague asked me. So you no sabi Professor Umezurike? Favour Odinga,another collegue asked him. Professor Gabriel Maduka Umezurike , a distinguished Nigerian academic , a renowned Scientist in the field of Biochemistry and a former University administrator? How you no go sabi am?

Professor G.M. Umezurike was a Nigerian academic, former Vice chancellor and former Secretary of Nigerian Universities Commission. He was born on the 29th of March 1936 at Obiakpu, Egbema in Ohaji/Egbema Local Government Area of Imo State. He attended Methodist Boy,s High School, Lagos (1951-1956); Federal Emergency Science School, Lagos, (1959-1960); University College Ibadan, (1961-1964); University of Ibadan, (1964-1966) and University of London (Burkbeck College) 1966-1967.

He started his working career as a Clerk with the Federal Ministry of Finance, Lagos, (December 1956-1958; and January September 1961).He was at the University of London for his post-graudate studies.Due to his excellent performance, he was employed to serve as a Post-Doctoral Research Demonstrator in Plant Biochemistry in 1967 at the University of Swansea, United Kingdom. In October 1970 he moved to University of Ghana as a lecturer in the Department of Biochemistry, where he served for three years, before he returned to Nigeria on invitation to serve as a pioneer member in the establishment of the Department of Biochemistry, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, where he was later appointed Lecturer I in 1973; Senior Lecturer in 1975; Reader (Associate Professor) 1977; and Professor in 1979.

In 1981, Professor Umezurike was appointed the first Deputy Vice Chancellor and Head of College of Arts and Sciences of the Old Imo State University Okigwe; and Vice-Chancellor of the University in 1988.Due to his excellent service, he was retained as the Vice-Chancellor of the University even when it was ceded to Abia State and renamed Abia State University Uturu in 1993, despite the fact that he was not from Abia State.

In addition to his contribution in the academic filed, Professor Umezurike served as a Member in Imo State Schools Management Board from 1976-1978; Member Working Group on Information and Postgraduate Training of the Nigerian National Committee of the African Bio-Sciences Network (1986); and Member of the Nigerian Universities Recruitment Team for the United Kingdom and Europe (1985),Secretary of Nigerian Universities Commission and Chairman of 2010 Ahiajioku Lecture

Professor Umezurike has written a number of scientific articles in the area of Bio-Chemistry among which are, Cellulolytic activities of Botryodiplodia theobromae pat.Annals of Botany (1969); Killetic Properties of B-glucosidase from Botryodia Plodia Theobromae Pat Biochimicaet Biophysica Acta 250, 182-1971, (1981) The B-glucosidase from Botryodiplodiaha theobromae: Mechanism of enzyme action (1981).The effect of glycerol on the activity of B-glucosidase from Botroyodiplodia theobromae Pat (1988).

Professor Umezurike is listed in Who-Is-Who in Nigeria (Educationist) by Daily Times Publication, Lagos 1983; Who-Is-Who in Nigeria by News- Watch Communications Ltd, 1990; and Who-Is-Who in the world by Marquis, USA 1996. Was conferred with the award of Officer of the Order of the Federal Republic (OFR) in 2001.

In June 1994 and June 1995 he was elected Honourable Delegate for Orlu District B (Ohaji/Egbema and Oguta Local Government Areas) to the National Constitutional Conference. Professor Umezurike held a number of traditional titles among which are Ochagha of Egbema Clan, and the Ehime of Mbano. He is survived by his wife, Mrs. Caroline Umezurike and children. May his soul rest in peace.Prof Umezurike may be dead and gone but his good deeds will certainly immortalize him in the minds of Ndi-Imo and in the minds of Nigerians.

-Kenneth Uwadi
Imo State