The death of every man reminds us of the ephemeral nature of life. While some people are not so much revered after their exit, some others are eulogised and immortalised for their worthy legacies. The late Professor Benedict Imeagwu Chukwumah Ijomah can be said to belong to the second category. He died on March 13, 2020, at the age of 83. He will be sorely missed.
Born on March 1, 1938, Prof. B.I.C Ijomah hailed from Aboh in Ndokwa East Local Government Area of Delta State. He graduated from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN), in 1963. His leadership skills manifested as a student at UNN, where he became the first Student Union President between 1960 and 1961. He was also the first National Vice-President of the National Union of Nigerian Students (NUNS) and had been a life member of NUNS since 1962. He was the pioneer President of the University of Nigeria Alumni Association both at Nsukka and nationally.
Like his mentor, Prof. Chukwuemeka Ike, Ijomah found it easy combining both academic and administrative work. After a three-year stint as an administrative officer and assistant registrar at UNN, Ijomah proceeded to Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois, United States, where he obtained a Master’s degree in Sociology in 1967. In 1969, he got his doctorate degree also in Sociology. For many years, he was Head of Sociology Department both at UNN and Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma, where he was Dean of Arts and Social Sciences from 1985-1989.
Though Ijomah retired in 2002, he was not tired of engaging in intellectual and academic activities. In 2006, he established the Madonna International College which is one of the best schools in Delta State today. On every birthday of his, he would ensure he presented a publication to the country. Until his death, he authored over 10 books and 100 articles.
Ijomah had carried out a number of quantitative researches in Sociology. Between 1986 and 1993, he embarked on a national and international research on Coastal Erosion in Nigeria and successfully predicted the instability of the ocean on Victoria Island, Lagos.
Late last year, the elder statesman stirred up some controversies when the B.I.C. Ijomah Centre for Policy Studies and Research, UNN, initiated an interdisciplinary conference on witchcraft. Realising that witchcraft has come to be associated with strange activities bearing on the supernatural, the conference sought to find answers to such questions as what is witchcraft, what factors influence witchcraft labelling in various communities and how the practice of witchcraft affect society. Due to the stigma associated with witchcraft in Nigeria, some Christian groups and church leaders opposed and demanded the cancellation of the conference.
In an interview he granted Saturday Sun on November 30, 2019, Ijomah claimed: “Church leaders don’t want us to go into it because they know by the time we will put a scientific analysis to witchcraft, we will point fingers, because many of those who parade themselves as church leaders are witches…I have interviewed known witches; half of the people that are getting titles in the churches are witches. The church has become a sanctuary for people their community rejected because they are witches.”
Ironically, Ijomah was an ardent Catholic and a lover of the Blessed Virgin Mary. He wrote many articles in her honour and even became the National Patron of the World Apostolate of Fatima in 2010.
The late erudite scholar held a number of positions in his native state and in the country. Among others, he was a member of the Federal Government Advisory Committee on Social Development in 1982 and a Commissioner for Education in the then Bendel State in 1983. He was also a member of the 1995 Constitutional Conference Commission. In 1998, he pioneered the South-South People’s Conference (SSOPEC) which later became the South-South People’s Assembly.
Ijomah was a member of many professional bodies. Among them are the Institute of Administration and Management, Institute of Sociological Association, Nigerian Sociological and Anthropological Society, American Sociological Association and International Sociological Association. He was also Editor of African Journal of Behavioural Sciences. He was married with eight children.
In mourning Prof. Ijomah, the Delta State Governor, Dr Ifeanyi Okowa, promised that his government would continue to promote scholarship and excellence which the elder statesman epitomised. We believe that this is one of the best ways to immortalise him. We commiserate with his family, friends and the academic community for the great loss. May God grant his soul eternal repose.