CKC, Onitsha: An Incubator of National Prosperity

Christ The King College Onitsha

By Dr Ray Emeka Onwuelo

Christ the King College (CKC), Onitsha was born on a warm sunny afternoon on Thursday, February 2, 1933. It was the 33rd day of the year in the Gregorian calendar. Officiating was Archbishop Charles Heerey, CSSP. It was in the middle of the Silent Generation. The CKC dream was huge, so massive land was needed to accommodate the dream. A temporary site was used along with St Charles College whilst a permanent location was sought. The search went far and wide outside Onitsha until Frederick and Margret Akpali Modebe provided the expanse of land where the school is now situated. CKC moved to the site in 1936.

It is exactly 796,058 hours to this moment in time. 33,169 days ago. 1,090 months today.

Actually, CKC is 91 years in 67 days’ time (90yrs and 290days). 1,124 full moons have gone. The Ruling Planet is Uranus. Birthstone is Amethyst and Flower is Violet. Pope Pius XI was the Pontiff and Head of the Roman Catholic Church.

Sir Hugh Clifford was the Governor General of Nigeria. Herbert Hoover was the US President (Republican).

Ramsay MacDonald was the British Prime Minister (Labour). Nazi Party was consolidating power in Europe under Adolf Hitler of Germany. Great minds like Albert Einstein were fleeing the old Europe.

In those circumstance, the 43 year old Bishop of the Vicariate of Southern Nigeria turned the sod with zeal, happiness and determination. He was prepared and equipped. He had the Efik and Igbariam experiences. His mentor, Bishop Joseph Shanahan had taken ill and had eyesight problems, so returned to Ireland. A 30-year-old brilliant, handsome and energetic Rev. Fr. Leo William Brolly was brought as Principal. He was only two years from Ordination and was not long in Nigeria. He was assisted by Fr. Burke, Fr. Kirsten, Fr. Reagan, and Fr. Keane who later became the Principal of the new College of Immaculate Conception (CIC), Enugu. The Vision and Mission for the establishment of the school were clear to all of them.

It was set as an All-Boys Secondary education with a pioneer intake of 90 students from a pool of 201 that took the entrance exam. This was aimed at enhancing and developing indigenous manpower and skills in Roman Catholic tradition and spiritualism.

The CKC Motto is Bonitas (Goodness), Disciplina (Discipline), and Scientia (Knowledge). The Slogan is Primus Inter Pares (First among Equals).

The 10th Principal of CKC, Rev. Fr. Nicholas Chukwuemeka Tagbo, at 34 years of age, became the first   indigenous person to head the school. He played that lead role from 1963 to 1972. The renowned educationist and administrator was born on August 21, 1929. He is from Awkuzu in Oyi   LGA. He is of CKC Class of 1949, and got his Senior Cambridge Certificate. He studied at the National University of Ireland, Dublin from 1953 to 1956, and was ordained on 31 July 1960.

Fr.Tagbo was the first in many ways. First Alumnus and first African to head the school. He was a builder of persons, character, leaders, infrastructure etc. He trained and moulded many boys. He ensured that all valuable assets of the school were moved to safety between October and December 1967 when Nigerian troops invaded and took over Onitsha during the Nigeria-Biafra war. He maintained a semblance of CKC at Oraukwu town, running only junior classes. He held tight and upright throughout the decade.

CKC over the years faced many challenges such as when land expanse was needed during World War II of 1939 to 1945 and the Nigeria-Biafra war of 1967 to 1970.

There was the Government takeover of schools in 1973, and the school’s name was changed to Heerey High School. The inspirational Principal Tagbo was transferred to Government College, Afikpo but had to come back to CKC to undertake a rescue mission. The return of Fr. Tagbo in 1976 fired up another decade of reorganisation, excellence and good academic, sporting and moral performances.

CKC came through the ashes of all the challenges, thanks to the Principal Fr. Tagbo and the Catholic Church. The College has grown in many ways. There is an active Alumni with several supportive Branches and Classes all over the world. The student population before the war was limited to 600, ensuring adequate student-teacher ratio and hence high quality education. It increased   to 4,000 in the 1970s. With reorganisation, it has come down to 2,600. There were 4 pre-civil war CKC Houses: St Charles, St. Gabriel, St. Michael and St. Joseph. There were 13 post-civil war Houses: Allagoa, Aniogu, Arinze, Azikiwe, Brolly, Butler, Flanagan, Heerey, Mbanefo, Modebe, Okagbue, Orjiakor and Tagbo. Different structures have adorned the school like Peter Odili Hall, Willie Obiano building and so on.

CKC has produced different sets of the most qualified and highly trained impeccable men in many different professions: Dominic Cardinal Ekandem, Archbishop Valerie Okeke, Fr. Nicholas C. Tagbo, Justice Chukwidifu Oputa, Justice Chuba Ikpeazu, Justice Peter Umeadi, Justice Anthony Aniagolu, Justice Chukwunweike Idigbe, Justice Agbakoba, Justice Okadigbo, HRH Obi Ofala Okagbue, HRH Chief Emma Nnabuife, HRH Justice Ambrose Allagoa, HRH Igwe Austin Ezenwa, HRH Igwe Charles Abangwu, HRH Prof Chike Edozien,

Dr Pius Okigbo, Dr Philip Emeagwali, Dr James Ene Henshaw, Prof Pat Utomi, Governor Peter Odili, Governor Peter Obi, Governor Willie Obiano, Senator Mike Ajaegbo, Chief Oscar Udorji, Ambassador Lawrence Nwuruku, Prince Felix Akenzua, Chief James Metuh, Dr Mike Ejiofor, Dr Charles Anyaeji, Ambassador Dada Olisa, Prof Alex Acholonu, Olisa Agbakoba, Arch Frank Mbanefo, John Munonye, and the sports stars Dominic Ezeani and Nnamdi Nwokocha.

CKC almost always took first in position amongst all schools in Cambridge Senior Certificate examinations.

CKC created a record by winning the World Schools Sports Federation Championship of 1977. After defeating all the Schools in Nigeria and Africa, the team went to Ireland to beat Luxembourg 2-0, France 1-0, Finland 2-0, Denmark 8-0, Ireland 1-1, Holland 1-0, and Turkey via a penalty shootout after a 2-2 draw in normal time.

To conclude, I commend all of us to study the current Archbishop of Onitsha, Valerian Maduka Okeke, a CKC product making monumental differences. We CKC boys, now men, can each make our individual similar differences, prevailing on our various spheres of activities and influence. Those will eventually bring the much desired, still -elusive change in Nigeria and the world for good.


  • Excerpts from the 90-year CKC, Onitsha Anniversary Lecture delivered by Dr Ray Emeka Onwuelo (CKC 81) on November 26, 2023


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