Ike C. Ibe was born to the family of Late Hon. Justice G.I. Ibe and Mrs. V. U. Ibe of Amuzi, in Obowo Local Government Area of Imo State.
Young Ike as he was popularly called enrolled into Holy Rosary Primary School, Amuzi, for his primary education. He however finished his primary school at Urban School 111 Umuahia, where his family had moved to in 1972.
He gained admission into Ibeku High School Umuahia for his secondary education. His political instincts became horned at this early stage and led to misunderstanding with the school authorities over his frequent protests against unjust practices usually targeted at junior students.
He completed his secondary school education at Santa Crux, Olokoro, Umuahia where he served as the Public Relations Officer of the Students Union. After his secondary education, the prestigious University of Nigeria Nsukka offered him admission to read economics against a degree in law which he applied for. He refused the offer and lost an academic year. He later gained admission to study the course of his choice at the old Imo State University passing on admissions to Universities of Nebraska, Alabama, and Tulane all in the United States.
His abiding interest in politics took a new turn as he easily joined the political fray in the IMSU campus. He won elections into various students’ union bodies. In his first year he was elected member/clerk of the Law Students House of Assembly, in second year he was elected Secretary General of the Law Students Association, in his third year he joined the national executive committee of Nigerian Association of Law Students. In his final year he became the Chairman of the Law Students Electoral Commission.
At the Law School he won the American Martin Luther King Essay Competition for Nigerian youths organized by the United Sates International Agency. Law School and the National Youth Service followed with dispatch and by the end of 1988 he was ready to take on the world on his own terms.
It should be noted that he did his youth service at Eket, in present Akwa Ibom, State where he saw firsthand the neglect of Nigeria’s rural communities especially the Niger Delta. In his writings and discussions then, he pointed out the potential problems and tension that was building up in the rural communities and called for an urgent need to arrest the situation.
He moved over to Lagos at the end of his service year and opened a law chamber. He ran a successful law chamber that other young lawyers came to join him. As a lawyer, he explored other avenues of conflict resolution since he saw the poor who constitute the bulk of litigants as short changing themselves.
His legal activities did not quench his test for politics. However, it increased his appetite to help the down trodden who constituted the bulk of his clients. He was convinced that though the judiciary was the last hope of the common man, but it was politics that could actually uplift the status of the common man. So the thaw in politics saw him pitching camp with the then political party, National Republican Convention (NRC).
Exhibiting a suave political sagacity and acumen never seen before in his community, this then 25 year old Young Turk clinched his party’s nomination and went ahead to win the general elections into the Imo State legislature in 1991 to represent Obowo West Constituency. He ran on the slogan of—“the hope of the young, the choice of the old, and the delight of all”.
With this election, he became one of the youngest legislators of the 3rd Republic and probably one of the youngest ever elected in Nigeria. His activities in the legislative house became a wakeup call for all the youths in Imo State and beyond. He was the chairman of House committee on information, member of committees of budget and appropriations, Justice and Judiciary, Works and Housing, local government and Chieftaincy Affairs, commerce and industries, Civil service etc. Not done yet, through a deft political move, he was elected the Acting Speaker of the Imo House of Assembly before the military struck in 1993. A developmental politician with welfarist tendencies, Ike fought several political battles to ensure even redistribution of wealth in Imo State. He was in haste probably a bit too early to continue what the great Imo leader, De Sam Mbakwe a former governor of Imo State Started before the army struck.
By 1993 the army struck putting a final lid on that republic. Vocal politicians like Ike, became easy targets of the army who abhorred any type of opposition. His only option then was a voluntary exile in the United States of America in early 1994.
Unlike most political exiles who bemoaned their fate, Ike plunged into the American society with the intent to understand how they had been able to make so much progress. He went into legal practice specializing in international business transactions and immigration law. He specialized in this area to help the countless Nigerian immigrants in the United States who were passing through very difficult times.
Not done yet with equipping himself intellectually, Ike went ahead to acquire various qualifications including a Masters degree in Law, (LL. M) from the highly rated American University in Washington DC (specializing in international business transactions, international petroleum and energy law, international contracts law, immigration and asylum law, European Union Law, international procurement law, etc). He also acquired some other professional certificates and licenses in the United States.
Suffering the fate of a political exile did not dampen his faith in politics. He teamed up with other Nigerian progressive forces in exile in the United States then clamoring for the return of democracy in Nigeria. They formed the famous National Democratic Coalition (NADECO) with Ike as one of the legal advisers and resource person in Washington. The activities of these groups manifested in the enormous international pressure that was brought to bear on Nigeria’s maximum leader – General Abacha.
Returning to Nigeria in 1998, he was greatly traumatized by what had become his country and his beloved state. According to Ike “if there was ever a place more brutally hit by the devastation of fifteen years of military misrule in Nigeria, that place was Imo State… everything and everybody in the state came to a halt. People lost hope in the ability of the military or indeed any government to make their lives better or even meaningful. Businesses were running at snail speed for those that were still open. Workers and retirees were being owed a mountain of arrears. Schools were in permanent state of shut down and students were always at home. School buildings looked like places ravaged by war. Hospitals were empty but sick people were everywhere.”
With the coming of the fourth Republic, he joined forces with like minds to form the Peoples Democratic Party. He was a pioneer member of the party both in Imo State and in the United States. Determined to change the status quo, he contested for the senate primaries in his party.
After the manipulation that was the primaries, the question that bothered him was, denied a political role how could he help his people overcome ‘the years eaten by the locust’? He realized that a helping hand from the international community would go a long way to help his people. He therefore went back to the United States with a singular determination to mobilize international resources to help the state.
The course of action he chose and his determination was not helped by the international perception the world had about Nigeria. He knew that to break the ice he had to start from home that is, his fellow Imo people living in the United States and Europe. Using various Nigerian fora and Nigerian professional groups and braving all odds, he was able to convince them of the need to help salvage their state. Determination alone could not have led to the grand success he achieved if not for the confidence Imo State reposed in him, the peoples’ absolute trust in him and a natural confidence and mien he exuded.
In 1999, Ike, a master strategist and arranger, in collaboration with members of Imo Forum which he co-founded in the United States, quickly arranged for the then Executive Governor of Imo State, Chief Achike Udenwa and his top management economic team to visit some of the international agencies like the World Bank, the International Finance Corporation, several federal and state government agencies and some agencies of the United Nations as well as to meet Imo and Nigerian people in the US. Ike traveled with the Governor to Washington, Maryland, New York, Texas, California, Connecticut, Chicago, Atlanta, and New Jersey. This visit for the first time in the history of Imo State placed her squarely in the international limelight. All these led to the conceptualization, formulation and realization of the Imo State Trade and Development Office which won the support of the governor. Governor Udenwa quite naturally appointed Ike into his cabinet as the first ever Imo State Trade Representative to head this office in Washington, DC.
The Trade Office set off immediately to internationalize Imo State by advertising and attracting developmental aids, investments and materials to the state. By the year 2000, the first set of international investors had visited Imo State and established good relationships with government and people of the state.
He arranged fund raising meetings across the United States and Europe for the Imo State University to enable her attract enough resources to equip the school and position some of her departments for accreditation. He equally sent materials like computers, Optometry equipments, books, laboratory equipment etc to the university.
Realizing the horror the army bequeathed to the health sector; he channeled his energy towards improving the health care of the people. This led to his formation of the Imo State International Medical Mission. The medical mission made up of ‘top of the range’ medical specialists especially those lacked at home started visiting Imo State and became a semi-annual state program.
One of their missions to Imo State was described by the then governor as “the mother of all medical missions” as Ike came with 52 US based American and Nigerian medical professionals and crisscrossed Imo State bringing relief to the common folks. The mission while it lasted (12 trips) visited all local government areas in Imo State average of three centers per local government treating well over One million, five hundred thousand citizens, performed over ten thousand surgeries and gave out over three hundred and fifty thousand eye glasses and dispensed over $5 million worth of medications. The success of what he initiated has over the years been copied abysmally by subsequent governments without much visible impact.
When Achike Udenwa came up with the idea of a teaching hospital and a center of excellence in Imo State, he was nearly dissuaded by the enormous cost implications. Ike as usual made that dream possible. The Imo State University Teaching Hospital became a reality with the greatest state of the art equipment ever seen anywhere in West Africa. Ike sourced these equipment free of cost to Imo State from the United States.
These equipments include 9 ambulances, 10 x-ray machines, 25 dialysis machines with a filtration plant established, CT-scan, EKG machines, dental and surgical tables and equipment, examination tables, 1000 beds and mattresses, over one million syringes, two fire trucks, and the list goes on and on. Realizing the problem of training and maintenances in Nigeria, he arranged for specialist technicians who trained the staff. He also arranged for the donors and support agencies’ commitment to maintain those equipments as long as the Institution remained open. Where are those equipments today one is forced to ask? Probably gone with the winds of successive governments.
In the Educational sector, he had in conjunction with the United States State Department and World Bank set up the Imo Online project, an ICT center of excellence at Alvan Ikoku College of Education valued at over three hundred million naira. He had also sourced over two hundred thousand books for the Imo State Library and school system to encourage a reading culture in our youths. He also got a commitment for free books for all Local Government Area Libraries and reading/writing desks for our schools. The pilot project for this took off in the first quarter of 2005. The succeeding governments as usual killed off these golden initiatives. All these came from donor agencies.
Coming from a humble background, he knew the raw efforts the out-rightly poor make in order to eke out a living. Through the Kelechukwu Ibe Kidney Foundation and Ike C. Ibe Foundation Free Loan Scheme, he has been supporting the poor and needy in Imo State. The foundation runs a non-refundable financial grants scheme for poor widows. Countless wheel chairs and other apparatuses have been given to the physically challenged across the state. He also single handedly rehabilitated, rebuilt, and equipped the health center at Amuzi, Obowo, to bring health closer to the down trodden in his community and built homes for a few poor widows beyond his community.
Not forgetting the average Nigerian’s love for sports, Ike has supported various rural sports clubs across the state. It is on record that he organized one of the most successful youth soccer competitions in Okigwe zone where for the first time in the history of sports development in Imo State, he donated footballs, complete sets of jerseys and complete set of soccer boots to all the 6 participating local governments. He also initiated and organized the Owerri International marathon race, the first of which recorded about three thousand runners in April 30, 2005 with runners wining over one million naira in total price money.
Ike C. Ibe is today one of the few Nigerians with an unquestionable local, national and international reputation. He has wined and dined with the low and mighty at home and abroad. He is at home with and consulted for various world developmental agencies. Many American great institutions like Howard University Hospital, Project CURE, Africare, Books for Children of the World, TIS African Children’s Fund, Elizabeth Taylor Center, US Export Import Bank, Overseas Private Investment Corporation, World Bank, US Trade and Development Agency, and many United States governors and Mayors including US corporations etcetera, all have an open door for him. His reach within the European Union is phenomenal.
Always sought after to speak in many professional and development fora in different places from his community association, to the Imo Forum, and the World Igbo Congress and the World Bank in the US, he has made his impact felt. He has received over 38 chieftaincy titles from several communities in Imo state and beyond among which is High Chief ‘OZONDU NDI IGBO’ from his Amuzi community. He has also received the International red Cross award for humanitarian service, the Fellowship of the College of Agriculture Imo State, (now Imo Polytechnic). Ike has been honored with awards by the Imo State Association in New York, Government and People of Imo State, Imo State University Teaching Hospital, several organizations and students associations at home and in the United States, and has received keys to the cities of Austin Texas, and Southfield, Michigan from their mayors all in the United States. Ike was married to Chief Mrs. Nancy Ibe ‘OSO DI EME’ and blessed with two daughters until the fatal dana plane crash killed his wife Nancy and twelve year old daughter, Jennifer.
Between 2005 to 2007, the searchlight was for a developmental minded persona who would build on the progress being made by outgoing governor. In consultations across Nigeria and the Diaspora, Ike C. Ibe's name always cropped up. He did not hide his abiding love for the ordinary citizens and had shown through his x-rayed activities above that he could deliver the goods, he had no option than to plough headlong into the murky waters of the Nigerian politics for the race for governorship.
Using his campaign machinery called Project Ike International with tentacles spread all over the state and beyond, Ike C. Ibe unleashed a political campaign never seen in the history of this clime. He brought a new freshness to politicking and campaigns that saw new political ideas like open market rallies through which he toured all the major local markets in Imo state to meet the ordinary market men and women. He unlike every other politician in the race toured all the three hundred and five wards of the state thrice over to sell his political manifesto face to face to the rural communities. His styles and ideas became the topic of discussion by Imo citizens including children and adults alike. He was debated in every home in Imo state, he was a darling of the masses and they all rooted for him. In course of the campaigns he made a pact with the people that he will see the race to the end. When the PDP denied him a well deserved ticket, he secured the ticket of the African Democratic Congress (ADC) and ran the race till the end as he promised. The rest is history.
In 2011, Ike C. Ibe once more offered himself amidst other opposition members to re-direct the focus of governance and he suffered untold consequences but he bore them with no ill feeling and an infinite believe in God and the good course of the masses he had always pursued.
At the 2010 burial of his father, late Justice Gerald Ibe, a revered jurist, legal icon and a pacifist politician of the Mbakwe era who was elected to the then 1979/83 Imo House of Assembly, the entire political establishment of Imo state and the country at large were mesmerized by the love people showered on Ike. The burial became a form of political carnival that had who is who in Imo state and beyond attending irrespective of political differences. Only an Ike C. Ibe, people whispered could have brought these 'mortal enemies' together. From Abuja came high PDP party officials. Not to be outdone came national representatives of PPA, the then ANPP, AC and APGA. And the masses came in their throngs from all the 27 local governments of Imo state to mourn with the people’s governor.
The personal disaster that struck this Young Turk when he lost his dear wife Nancy and his second daughter Jennifer in one fell swoop in a plane crash is a story better told another day. However Ike has never failed to acknowledge that he has remained alive today due to the outpouring of love people from all corners and all strata showered on him at this crisis period. He will remain forever grateful. He has since decided to confront the monstrous cankerworm called corruption that has bleed Nigeria and Nigerians to death. The Nancy And Jennifer Ibe Center for Public Accountability (NAJICPA), an anti corruption agency he set up in their memory has plunged head-on in this fight against corruption. The agency’s first outing was an international rally that took place simultaneously in over thirty two cities across the world condemning corruption and urging world leaders to put more pressure on Nigerian leaders who pauperize our people, put all at risk and disappear with our money to the coffers of European, American and now Asian banks. He has continued to host and sponsor conferences and seminars on anti corruption.
All through his life, Ike has shown in his community, state and country that nothing pays more than hard work, honesty, commitment and integrity. His life is laced with several accomplishments dotted with first this and that or youngest this or that. Ike has become a permanent man of history. His career in private and public service which spans through the judiciary, legislative and executive branches of government is full of accomplishments and ingenuity. Ike C. Ibe is a problem solver. He has brought people together, found solutions and implemented them. Ike with his national and international reach is like a bridge between Imo state, Nigeria and the western world, between the young and old, the rich and the poor, the fortunate and the less fortunate. He has a vision for Imo state, a vision of a stronger, better, more united and prosperous state. He is a leader who has shown he can make that happen. If elected, Ike will bring all these experiences to the Imo state governance. Ike C. Ibe is our sure bet of recovering these past few years eaten by the locust.
Quite early in life, Ike developed a resolute determination to improve the lives of his fellow human being. So it was not a surprise that he has devoted all his intellectual and political gifts, his personal resources and his extraordinary capacity for diligence and hard work to serve the public – his people. For him therefore loyalty to the ordinary people is the key to success and “the purpose of politics and governance is to enable people develop all their faculties and potentials, and enjoy their fleeting lives….” The idea that power was an end in itself rather than a means to provide the security and opportunity necessary for the pursuit of happiness, is to him, “stupid and self defeating”.
An avowed and uncompromising Igboist, Ike C. Ibe has never shied away from confronting the Nigerian marginalization of Ndi Igbo, including Igbo marginalization of Igbo. It is no surprise therefore that for him APGA is a home-coming. He ran in 2015 as the Deputy Governorship candidate of APGA and is poised to be the guber candidate now. In 2015 He brought his usual panache and razzmatazz into the campaign. He became a bridge builder within the campaign and the party at large within Imo State and the National. Despite the massively rigged election against APGA, he has remained a staunch party man. Knowing where the rains started beating the party in the state, he quickly and quietly joined hands with the soft spoken, warrior State Chairman, Barrister Ezeobi and his very proactive state executive to start the rebuilding process that has once more positioned APGA Imo State as the first choice of Imolites and political leaders.
With an infinite belief that God’s time is the best and with the untold suffering unheard of before now that Imo citizens have suffered, he has once more thrown his hat into the ring to contest for the governorship position to liberate Imo people.
For Ike, life is simple and uncomplicated when you live it for humanity, which he has done all his life and will continue to do as the governor of Imo State when the time comes.