Saturday, July 05, 2008

Ike Anya - The Reluctant Celebrant

Ike Anya is something to everyone. To some, he is an astute travel writer. To others, he is a poet. He is also a good interviewer and a keen blogger. However people get to know Ike, they eventually get to know he is actually a medical doctor with one foot in the arts and the other in medicine.

Ike was recently appointed a Consultant in Public Health Medicine at the Hammersmith and Fulham Primary Care Trust. To the man who has achieved this great feat, it was just another blessing for which he was grateful, and not something to shout about. Ike's childhood friend and fellow public health doctor/co-blogger, Chikwe Ihekweazu felt differently about it, and together with his wife Ijeoma, they set up a fantastic reception in Ike's honour at the Cicada in London's Farringdon area on Friday, the 4th of July 2008. As the event kicked off I looked around. No Molara Wood. Shit! Who is going to write about this night?

Chikwe made a moving speech that traced his friendship with Ike from primary school at the University town of Nsukka, through med school at the University of Nigeria's Enugu campus, to their stint in Public Health Medicine training in Bristol. Looking at the mix of guests on the night; lawyers, doctors, artists, bio-technicians, writers and civil servants, Chikwe stated that it was to the credit of Ike's multifarious activities and nature that he attracted such a spread of people from different backgrounds. He joked about Ike's simple way of life that belied a man of such varied professional strengths - "Ike had no TV. You visit Ike, you couldn't even watch the news. He lived in London, but he had no car. I always asked him, what kind of Nigerian are you?"

Chikwe then introduced me to talk about Ike's other side - his writing. I kept it short and sweet, about his travelogues and interviews but homed in on his poetry; the often sentimental, short, snatched reflections on relationships, friendship, and society. Having had the privilege of publishing Ike Anya's poetry in the March 2003 issue of Sentinel Poetry (Online), I pulled out a print out of the pages of the magazine and I went on to give an impromtu reading of his poems, ignoring his 'Oh no!' - futile protestation. His friends loved to hear his poems. I wished him well and expressed the hope that the workload that would come with his new position does not tear him away from his writing.

A musical interlude followed. Live jazz by the South African singer Aletia Upstairs. Chikwe had seen Miss Upstairs in performance at the Eastern Light Literary Evening with Nduka Otiono and loved her music. He invited her to perform especially for Ike on the night. Aletia did not disappoint, belting out such tunes as African Girl, Show You Africa, and Malaika.

Ike himself then followed with a vote of thanks. He spoke of how moved he was by such a gathering in his honour, and in the short speech lasting all of five minutes, he probably said it 7 times that he had not wanted the celebration, yet since Chikwe had insisted, he was happy all the same, and humbled by the people who had come to share his joy. Self-effacingly, Ike said that it does astound him sometimes when people talk about all the things he has achieved and said it was all down to the love and staunch support of his friends and family, and the understanding of all the people who bore with him when he had failed to promptly return a phone call, or reply to an e-mail or attend one important family event or the other. "This is what has allowed me to do achieve some of these things, which I think are more than I deserve. I am at a stage in my life where I could not ask for more. I am very grateful."

As he spoke, I sipped at my second glass of champagne and ate amazing skewered beef, chicken and mushrooms, and if my mouth had not been so full of meet, I might have said allowed, "Ike, listen mate, you deserve every bit of what you have achieved, and we are here to urge you on unto greater things in years to come."

Nnorom Azuonye

PS: Sorry, I did not have my camera with me. No pictures from the night. I will post some when/if I receive them.

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