The governor of Anambra State, Chief Willie Obiano is in deep mourning over the death of the principal of his alma mater, Christ the King College (CKC), Onitsha, Rev, Fr. Nicholas Chukwuemeka Tagbo, OON, who passed on last weekend. This is even as the immediate past secretary to the state government, SSG, Mr Oseloka Obaze has described Tagbo's demise as one that has diminished humanity.
Governor Obiano, who spoke through his media aide, James Eze, was said to have been probably one of the few former students of the deceased teacher to see him before his death, having paid him an unscheduled visit at the hospital just before he passed on.
'The death of Fr. Tagbo came as a rude shock to me. Although he was a fairly old man, he was strongly built and very highly disciplined. I never could imagine that Fr. Tagbo would leave us so soon,' Governor Obiano said, pointing out that he had no idea that his last visit to the hospital to meet Fr. Tagbo would be their last encounter on earth.
'I visited him a few days before his demise in the company of Prof. Solo Chukwulobelu, Secretary to the State Government, and Ogbuefi Tony Nnachetta, Commissioner for Information, who are fellow old boys of CKC. He received us warmly and we left the hospital with hopes of his speedy recovery. But alas, that was not to be! Well, God knows the best. I believe he is in a better place now because he has gone to join the Lord,' Governor Obiano further narrated.
He described Fr. Tagbo as a quintessence of modesty and humility and a charismatic moral reformer who evoked the image of the biblical Good Shepherd and spared no effort to impart enduring values on his students.
'Fr. Tagbo raised so many great men in his time. He invested time and energy in ensuring that his wards were properly groomed and adequately prepared to contribute their very best to the larger world. He treated us like his biological sons and showed great confidence in our ability to carve a noble path in the world. His death is a big loss to all “Amaka Boys” as we old boys of CKC call ourselves,' Obiano further stated.
Condoling with the deceased's family, Governor Obiano assured them of his prayers and thoughts and prayed that God would grant them the fortitude to bear the loss.
For his part, Oseloka Obaze, himself an old boy of CKC, said that humanity had been greatly diminished by the passing on 2nd July 2016, of Rev. Fr. Nicholas Chukwuemeka Tagbo whom he describes as a clergy, educationist, administrator, poet, mentor and realist.
He said that Tagbo died at Onitsha, after a brief illness at the age of 86 and would have been 87 on 21 August, 2016.
'Fr Tagbo was an eminent alumnus of Christ the King College, Onitsha; he belonged to the C.K.C. Class of '49. Although a Catholic priest, his renown was as an extraordinary educationist with prodigious skill for moulding callow lads into future leaders. Just two weeks before he passed on, he granted an extensive interview lasting almost two hours to one of his students, novelist, Odili Ujubonu, as the final segment of a book project on his life, times and service. The book, which will now be published posthumously, is titled, ''SONS OF A PRIEST - Tagbo, The Legend Who Moulded Leaders''.
Obaze noted that since Tagbo retired in 1985 from active priesthood service and teaching, he had been in-residence at the Sacred Heart Parish, Onitsha and until his demise, was the second longest serving priest, after Monsignor Matthew Obiukwu, in the Archdiocese of Onitsha.
'A native of Awkuzu, in the Oyi LGA, Anambra State, Nigeria, Fr. Tagbo was born on 21 August, 1929, in the northern Nigerian city of Jos. Fr. Tagbo had his primary education in Jos, Awkuzu and Onitsha before entering the prestigious Christ the King College, Onitsha from 1945 to 1949, for his Senior Cambridge Certificate,' Obaze recalled.
According to the former SSG, Tagbo also taught part time at All Hallows Seminary, Onitsha. Thereafter, he proceeded to the Bigard Memorial Senior Seminary, Enugu, from 1951 to 1953 for his theological studies and preparation for priesthood. From Bigard, he proceeded to the National University of Ireland, Dublin, Ireland, from 1953 to 1956 and obtained a combined honours Bachelor of Science (B.Sc) degree in Mathematics, Chemistry, and Botany.
'Eventually, he returned to the Bigard Memorial Seminary, Enugu from 1957 to 1960, to complete his studies for the ministry. He was ordained as a priest, on 31 July, 1960.
'Fr. Tagbo's name, personality and values became synonymous with C.K.C. Onitsha, where he served as principal from 1962 to 1973 (including the civil war years) and for the second time, from August 1976 to October 1985. Fr. Tagbo is effortlessly described as the “principal of all principals”. Such adjectival qualification is no hyperbole. In all his years at C.K.C., Fr. Tagbo was not just a hand-on administrator; he taught both literature and sciences with equal dexterity, and had the uncanny ability of knowing each of his nearly 1,000 students by name. In all his years as a teacher, Fr. N.C. Tagbo, a strict disciplinarian, kept to his charge, teaching, persuading, reforming, directing, and moulding hundreds of callow young men who came through the portals of his famous tutelage. It is estimated that in his twenty-one years at the helm at C.K.C. over ten thousand students passed through the school and benefitted from his direct tutelage,' Obaze recounted.
He said that for his charges, Tagbo insisted on the balance of academics, sports, socials and other extra-curricular activities.
'Producing well-rounded personalities and leaders was for him the underpinning imperative of education. Thus, he impacted positively and proactively on our humanity, bequeathing as it were, a huge human resource legacy. Thankfully, during his lifetime, he witnessed many of his wards and past students ascend to lofty positions, both in private life and public service. Fr. Tagbo was the quintessential priest, educationist, mentor and realist.
'Two generations of C.K.C. alumni and Tagbo's many former wards, are now accomplished professionals in every field – government, politics, engineering, medicine, art, humanities, academic, etc — all over Nigeria and the diaspora, contributing to mankind's development,' Obaze said.
He noted that in Nigeria's Fourth Republic democratic dispensation, C.K.C. Onitsha was the only school to have produced three state governors, Dr. Peter Odili, former governor of Rivers State; Mr. Peter Obi, former governor of Anambra State, and Chief Willie Obiano, the incumbent governor of Anambra State.
'All three, were Fr. Tagbo's students at C.K.C Onitsha. Other eminent Nigerians who were students of Fr. Tagbo are too numerous to list, but include Dr. Philip Emeagwali, Senator Mike Ajegbo, Chief Oscar Udoji, Ambassador Lawrence Nwuruku, Dr. Mike Ejiofor, Archbishop Valerian M. Okeke, Professor Pat Utomi, Dr. Charles Anyaeji, Ambassador Dada Olisa, Research Scientist; Emma Onua, Microchips Inventor; Cyprian Emeka Uzoh; Mr. Olisa Agbakoba (SAN); Justice Peter C. Umeadi; Mr. Dominic Ezeani former Green Eagles and Rangers International player; the late ex-international, Mr. Nnamdi Nwokocha (MON), and HRH Chief Emma Nnabuife, the Igwe of Iseke, Anambra State, to name just a few.
'Observers claim that C.K.C. alumni swear by Tagbo, almost deifying him. They are right. Tagbo was a legend in his lifetime; and his renown will blossom in death. He was a man naturally imbued with intellect, panache, and genuine bonhomie. In another nation, he would be a national hero,' Obaze concluded.