The Authority Icon: JOSEPH CHIKE EDOZIEN
For seeking and deploying knowledge for betterment of humanity; for recognising that tradition is an important anchor for society in a period of rapid change and providing firm leadership in that realm; for being proudly Nigerian and projecting the country on the world map, Obi (Prof) Joseph Chike Edozien, CFR, the Asagba of Asaba, is The AUTHORITY Icon.
He is a scientist with passion who diligently probed for the truth of life and not surprisingly made his mark in his own highly specialised field. With an uncommon foresight he demonstrated leadership in apparently opposing fields – science and tradition. He is Obi (Prof) Joseph Chike Edozien, CFR, the Asagba of Asaba, Delta State.
He was born onJuly 28, 1925 in Asaba, Delta State. His father Nathaniel Okafor Edozien was a direct descendant of Nnebisi, the founder of Asaba, and one of the most senior indigenous officials of the Nigerian Coal Corporation in Enugu. His mother, Nwakuso Edozien née Odogwu, was the daughter of a prominent Asaba chief, and a notable trader.
Young Edozien attended the Catholic School in Warri, from 1933 to 1937. He attended Christ the Kings College, Onitsha, for his secondary education, from 1938 to 1942. In 1942 he attended the Higher College Yaba and then proceeded to Achimota School, Accra, Ghana.
He later left for theUniversity College Dublin, Ireland in 1944, where he completed his BSc with honours in Physiology from the National University of Ireland, in 1948, MSc in Physiology in 1950, Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Chemotherapy (MBBCh) in 1954. He won several academic awards in the process.
His academic career began with an appointment as a Lecturer in Clinical Biochemistry in Middlesex Hospital Medical School, University of London in 1951. In 1952 he was appointed Senior Lecturer in Chemical Pathology at the University College, Ibadan. He returned to Ibadan after further studies in Ireland.
In 1955 he married Modupe Smith a radiographer at the University of Ibadanteaching hospital. Her father was one of the first indigenous managers of the United Africa Company and her maternal grandfather was Herbert Macaulay, Nigeria’s first surveyor and one of the principal actors in Nigeria’s independence movement.
Edozien’s groundbreaking research in nutrition helped win the University College, Ibadan, a reputation as a rising academic centre. He was appointed a professor in 1961 and became the Dean of the Faculty of Medicine in 1962.
Edozien’s career at Ibadan ended in 1967, a casualty of the political crisis that ended the euphoria of the late 50s and early 60s and resulted in the coups of 1966 and eventually led to the Nigerian Civil War. In 1967, he was instrumental in the efforts to establish the University of Benin in the newly created Midwestern Region of Nigeria.
After a period as a refugee in France, he was appointed as a professor of Nutrition at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA. In 1971 he became a professor and head of Department of Nutrition, of the School of Public Health of the University of North Carolina.
In 1990 Edozien was appointed the Chairman of the Nigerian Institute of Medical Research. Shortly thereafter he was selected to become the 13th Asagba of Asaba. He retired as a Professor Emeritus of the University of North Carolina and returned to Nigeria in 1991.
A central theme of Edozien’s tenure as the Asagba has been the challenge balancing rapid development, modernization of traditional norms and institutions with preservation of the positive aspects and moderating influence of traditional values.