Oke(chukwu) Nkele did not reach Umuahia till 1966, after we fled Lagos following the January 1966 coup and the start of the attacks in other parts of Nigeria of peoples of the then Eastern Nigeria. Having completed his primary education at Ladi Lak primary school Yaba Lagos, Oke he went on to Yaba College of Technology with core subjects of Maths, Maths, Physics (MaMaPhy); Kennedy had launched the space program and he was intent on becoming a rocket engineer. (Time & Life Magazines,The Black Panthers, Jesse Owens at the Olympics all fueled his imagination. He was going to America he felt a kinship)
Oke was 6ft 6 inches tall with a size 17 shoe which earned him the moniker KINGSIZE.A superb athlete, stories told of him dominating the table tennis board in the School house conference room abound. He was the real (Original) Nkele, O School House. He won the Eastern Nigeria Collegiate championship for Discus at the 1967 games. ( If I remember correctly the event held in Enugu).
I got to Umuahia much later after the war and with my path already paved by the Nkele, O before. You see during the intake interview, standing in line outside the principal’s office for my turn to meet with the principal, the assistant school captain as I later ascertained approached me with the question, “I see your last name is Nkele, are you related to Kingsize?” I responded with trepidation “Yes” I answered. “Really” He said, “Are you any good at sports like your brother?” My thoughts were all over the place as to what my answer should be. “Yes” I blurted out, “I am even better than him”. That was the end of my interview, I was paraded into the principal’s office, some words exchanged, register entries made and I was assigned to School House. School house it turned out was the Assistant School Captain’s House. My exploits with sports at UMUAHIA are a story for another day but suffice it to say that the Assistant School Captain lost his shorts on this “Sports Trade before the Deadline, reaching for a number 1 draft pick”.
Okechukwu Nkele left Nigeria for Pilot school in the USA via the UK after the war. Got his pilots license at burnside oats and went on a short carrier as an airline pilot. He switched to computer hardware engineering at the dawn of computer era and worked and retired from Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC). He helped with Don Etiebet blaze that new frontier in Nigeria later.
After a short sojourn back to the USA, Oke retired and returned to Nigeria about 5 years ago.
We lost Oke on December 1st, 2020 to a steadily declining health condition over the last year. He was 69 years old. Left to mourn him are his Son, daughter and a grandson, five brothers and sister, sisters in-law, brothers in-law and many other friends and well-wishers too numerous to mention.
Yes, I arrived Umuahia on the wing of an eagle. I miss him already. SOAR INTO THE SKIES, TO THAT PEARCH WHERE ONLY EAGLES LAND!
The Other Nkele, O School House ‘70