Fides sports profile anchor Uche Enem interviewing John Dike in his country home Enugwu Ukwu.
One may be asking why a legend? Why not just a medalist or icons as we always celebrate? I call him a legend because he combined both Football as hobby and nursing as profession, yet he got to playing for Nigeria in the 50's at international level. He is indeed a legend which Nigerians do not celebrate when compared to other countries in the world. On the last day of June, 2017, I visited John Dike alongside his son, Rev. Fr. Coach Obinna Dike and Amarachi Okpunobi at his Enugwu Ukwu country home.
Let me start from his features. John Dike is 87 years old now. He was born April, 19, 1930 at Enu Avomimi Village of Enugwu Ukwu town in Njikoka Local Government Area of Anambra state. He later had some of his trainings in Nsukka and Warri. Because of the nature of the kind of job his father late Jeremiah Dike did during the colonial days, he had some of childhood experiences and education background in many states like; Rivers State, Enugwu Ukwu and even Cameroun. John Nwakaozo Dike had his primary school education at St. Joseph's Uyo and St. Theresa's Okigwe. He had his secondary school education at St. Patrick's College (SPC) Ikot Ansakabam in Calabar, Cross River State in 1945 where his sports life began. John Dike speaks fluent and standard English. He is tall and still very handsome and still strong to carry himself. One strong thing I saw about him when he walked towards his seat was the aura of discipline, strength and doggedness in him. John Dike is now old and some of the better side of his profile wasn't remembered by him because of the usual age-related condition. Johndyke as popularly called in his playing days is a living legend out of many who might have died that should be celebrated. One fascinating thing about sports he revealed was that sports enhanced discipline among players. He said that sports no longer commanded enough discipline today in Nigeria when compared to sports during his playing days. This sports discipline made players unique and distinctive in carrying out their activities. They loved and played for Nigeria because of discipline and loyalty. At St. Patrick's where John Dike had his secondary school, the Principal, Rev. Fr. Mark Nellis was so happy with him and treated him like a baby. The principal always told John how gifted and wonderful he was to him and to society especially after the SPC concert. 'Whenever I remember such moments I smile and I feel happy' Dike enthused with nostalgia. John Dike was the captain of Hockey and Football during his days in secondary school at SPC Calabar. John started his sports life in 1945 even before Nigeria gained her independence. He has now retired from both sports and nursing.
John Dike, sitting first left among other students of St Patrick's collage Calabar in the 40's.
As a Nurse, he retired as a Principal Nursing Superintendent in 1987. He is a born footballer who played international matches and of course brought good name for Nigeria. Because of his talented skills in football, he was made the captain of the mid west team at Warri. While in Warri where he had his nursing education, he was the captain of the team and also played in the Nigeria team. It was while he played in Warri, he was picked and selected to play international matches. He played matches in Togo and Ghana and many other countries representing Nigeria in the 50's. After the creation of the mid western state, he moved from Warri to his state, the then Anambra. When asked if his nursing work disturbed him from playing, John Dike replied no. He said that he stopped playing when he realized his body was growing weak. He wanted also to devote more time to his nursing profession. John Dike expressed how he loves mankind and humanity which was the core reason why he studied Nursing. He said that he felt discomfort whenever he saw people with injuries, suffering from sickness. After this his reply, I wondered if this is the same reason why we have very few good nurses and many wicked nurses in Nigeria because of lack of passion in their job and lackadaisical attitude for humanity. During the Civil war, John Dike as a nurse was so much into helping many injured people especially at Ekwulobia where he served. His nursing sojourn took him to various places of work- Onitsha, Egbema in Rivers state, Aguobuowa and Oji River in Enugu State. He lectured at School of Health Technology Oji River and was made the Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI) Director in Oji River Local Government Area of Enugu state.
John Wedded his heartthrob Ebele in 1971.
He won the state award for hard work in Enugu state that made the state government publish a poster in all government offices with the message “BE LIKE MR DIKE. WORK HARD”. At Ekwulobia in Aguata Anambra state, he was a cult, figure known throughout the region and beyond for dedication, fear of God and human touch. John Dike played right half back position because he said he wasn't too good with his left leg and when asked about any injuries he encountered during his active football life, he said he couldn't remember any. When asked about how Nigeria sports could be improved, John Dike said that the best thing Nigerian footballers needed were discipline. For John, every school should have a place for sports and recreation. Schools should not see sports as distraction. Some schools according to him believe that by engaging in sports and recreational activities, students would drop off academically. John Dike expressed how good results were produced in his school during his time even when they engaged in lots of sporting activities. He advised schools to get equipped with such facilities. Schools should not wait for the government in everything. By saying this, John Dike added that with discipline, things would get better. He added that it was pertinent for every school on have sporting facilities. Dike said his father Jeremiah was his role model. In the interview, he encouraged parents to really take care of their children. My Dad disciplined us so much. I love helping people who are in need. I am the only child of my mother who is from Eha Alumona, Nsukka in Enugu state. 'I can also remember when I treated a patient miraculously who was suffering from sarcoma which was a terrible disease and everybody was running away from him because the disease usually smell and I volunteered to take care of the patient. I believe so much in helping people who are badly afflicted.
John Dike's son, Rev Fr Coach Obinna, Dike (1st left), John Dike and Fides Uche Enem .
After some time, the guy was cured of the disease and people praised me for my bravery and commended me because of my skills in every field. Anytime I remember this, I feel so fulfilled. People go into nursing even when they don't have any passion for it' John said. John Dike loves Blue and White as his favorite colour. He eats anything but prefers rice. He is married to Marian Ebele Dike from Ndikelionwu town of Orumba North Anambra state. Their wedding in 1971 is blessed with seven children, three boys and four girls. His first son is a priest, Rev Fr Coach Obinna Dike who is the first Rev Fr certified Football Coach in Nigeria. John's first daughter is Rev. Sister Annastasia Ebelechukwu Dike who is presently the Mother General of Daughters of Divine Love (DDL) Congregation.
John Dike (3rd from left) as an international player against Ghana in the 50's.
He praised his daughter and his wife for their unique characteristics and appreciates them a lot. In fact, John Dike expressed how he treasures and loves his wife so much. When asked how he met his wife, he said he met his wife at Nanka in 1971 in a function and picked her after someone requested that he should better marry. Apart from football as his hobby, he loves teaching Catechism. He is blessed with a rare combination switch of baritone and tenor which stands him out in any musical rendition.