HRH, Dr Edwin Ogebe Ogbu was born on 28th December 1926 to Chief Ogbu Iyanga, the paramount Chief of Utonkon and Mrs Eje Ogbu. He attended primary schools in Utonkon and Igumale before proceeding to the famous Methodist College Uzuakoli in 1938 where he excelled and came out with division one in the Cambridge School Certificate Examination (one of the precursors to modern day Senior School Certificate Examination) in 1945.
In 1948, Edwin Ogbu gained admission to Bethune Cookman College (now Bethune-Cookman University) in Daytona Beach, Florida and graduated with a combined honours degree in Sociology and Anthropology in 1951, making Edwin Ogbu the first degree holder from present day Benue State. In 1953, he proceeded to the prestigious Stanford University, Palo Alto in California and graduated in 1955 with an MA in Education.
Edwin Ogbu returned to Nigeria in 1956 and joined the Northern Nigeria Government in 1956 as Assistant Secretary in the Ministry of Finance. He was the third most senior official in the ministry after the Finance Secretary and Senior Assistant Secretary. As Assistant Secretary, he was involved in formulating and implementing the monetary policies of the Northern Nigeria Government.
In 1958, he transferred from the Northern Nigeria Civil Service to Federal Civil Service and was posted to the Nigerian High Commission in London as Deputy Secretary in charge of Students Affair. As Deputy Secretary, he used his experience as a foreign student in the US to great effect and the High Commission was able to provide quality consular services and support to Northern Nigerian students in the UK.
Edwin Ogbu returned to Nigeria upon independence in 1960 and was appointed Secretary of the Federal Civil Service Commission where he championed the case of recruiting suitably qualified people into the Federal Civil Service which he considered the bedrock of the Federal Government. He was at the Federal Civil Service Commission until 1962 when he was promoted to the position of Permanent Secretary at Federal Ministry of Works & Survey. At the Federal Ministry of Works & Survey he was heavily involved during the planning stages for the construction of River Niger Bridge in Onitsha and Kainji Dam.
In 1963, he was transferred to the Federal Ministry of Finance as Permanent Secretary to help realise the objectives of the First National Development Plan (FNDP) introduced the previous year. Dr Edwin Ogbu remained at the Federal Ministry of Finance until after the military coups in 1966 when he moved to the Federal Ministry of External Affairs as Permanent Secretary where he helped formulate the foreign policy of the new military government.
He was with the Federal Ministry of External Affairs until February 1968 when the Federal Government of Nigeria posted him to United Nations (UN) in New Year as Nigeria’s ambassador to the UN. This appointment was during the height of the Nigerian Civil War and it was evident that his diplomacy skills were needed to articulate Nigeria’s position as the war raged. Even after the war ended in 1970, he continued at the UN until September 1975 when he retired from public service, making him one of the longest serving Nigeria’s ambassadors to the UN.
While at the UN, he was a member of prominent UN committees and in 1973, he became the Chairman of the Committee against Apartheid. He also headed the Committee on Namibia and the Committee on Global Peace Keeping Operations. He rose to international prominence in 1974 when he successfully challenged the credentials of the South African delegation, which had attempted to obtain UN recognition of the apartheid government. During his stint with the UN, he was also the Nigerian High Commissioner to Jamaica, Barbados and Trinidad & Tobago from 1970 to 1974.
Despite his stature as a diplomat in the 1970s, Edwin Ogbu still paid close attention to events in Idomaland and was part of the group that were instrumental in the establishment of Idoma Community Secondary School, Otobi (now Federal Government College) in the early 1970s.
During his lifetime, Edwin Ogbu received numerous recognitions for his meritorious services to humanity. In 1974, his Alma Mater, Bethune Cookman College awarded him an honorary Doctor of Law degree for his service to public service. Other Universities that conferred honorary doctorate degrees on him include University of Lagos (Doctor of Law in 1986), University of Jos (Doctor of Law in 1986) and Benue State University (Doctor of Letters in 1992).
After the creation of Benue State in 1976, Dr Edwin Ogbu was appointed the Chairman of the Governing Council of the newly established Murtala College of Arts, Science and Technology, Makurdi (present day Benue State Polytechnic Ugbokolo). He was also the first Chairman of Council and Pro-Chancellor of University of Maiduguri and in 1992, he was appointed the first Chairman of Governing Council & Pro-Chancellor of Benue State University, Makurdi; the first State owned university in Northern Nigeria.
The achievements of Dr Edwin Ogbu were also recognised by Idoma people and in 1995, the Och’Idoma II, HRH Dr. Ajene Okpabi, made him the “Ochojila K’Idoma” a traditional title which translates into leader of Idoma people. The title was conferred on him in recognition of his contributions to the development of Idoma land.
Dr Edwin Ogbu continued his service to Idoma community and when Ajene Okpabi passed away, he was made the chairman of the Central Planning Committee of the transition of Och’Idoma following the death of Ajene Okpabi in late 1995.
When the search for a successor to Ajene Okpabi began, Dr Edwin Ogbu was an overwhelming favourite to become Och’Idoma and it was no surprise when he was announced as the Och’Idoma III on 10th January 1996. His ascension to the throne, gave the position of Och’Idoma more prestige and credibility due to stature of Dr Edwin Ogbu in world politics. Unfortunately, HRH, Dr Edwin Ogbu passed away in 1997 before he could really establish his mark as Och’Idoma.
HRH, Dr Edwin Ogbu has a place in Idoma folklore, as there is a popular saying that translates into “no matter how hard you study, you cannot be better educated than Dr Edwin Ogbu Iyanga”. This is in recognition of his place in Idoma history as her first graduate.
- Edwin Ogbu edited by Y. Ochefu. Aboki Publishers