His short story titled, “Tears Of A Country” published in 2002 was nominated for Caine Prize in 2003. In 2008, he published his first collection of poems, Flame Of Freedom.
Nkem Ekeopara, prolific columnist for Houston-based USAfricaonline.com and USAfrica magazine, was born November 25, 1960 to Igbo parents, Mr. Silas Manukaji Ekeopara and Mrs. Fanny Ugwuamammezie Ekeopara (nee Udokporo) in Ihiagwa, Eastern Nigeria.
He was just in primary 1 when the Nigeria-Biafra War started. Like most of his generation, the war stole his innocence, disrupted his education and exposed him, and his siblings to hunger and starvation.
He recalls that their mother used to travel long distances with his 10-year-old brother to buy food for the family. His older teenage sisters couldn’t go with their mother as they’ll be kidnapped by vandals and kept as sex slaves.
At the end of the war, he restarted school. When he completed primary school in1974, he had to lose another three years, because there was no finance to further his education, immediately.
Later, his maternal uncles, Ochiagha BM Udokporo and Engr. Cliff C. Udokporo decided to finance his Secondary Education as his parents couldn’t train him and his other siblings at the same time.
He was to suffer a huge psychological setback in addition to the trauma of the war when he lost both parents in his first year in high school in 1977. The loss of his Mother pained him most, because of her sacrifices for him and his siblings during the war.
So, he sat for Common Entrance, passed and was posted to Ngor Okpala High School. He led his set from form 1 to form 4.
Considering his sincerity, hard work oratorical ability, and other leadership skills, as attested to by his Form Masters and the rules in place since he came into the school, he was supposed to be made the Senior Prefect.
However, the Principal, Mr. Innocent Iwuagwu told the teachers that Nkem was too independent-minded and shouldn’t be allowed to lead the students.
Mr. Iwuagwu went for a pliable student, who wasn’t in the first forty if his set was to be ranked according to all indices of leadership.
So, he left and went to Umuahia, targetting Government College Umuahia, and Ibeku High School.
First, he went to Government College, Umuahia. By the time he got there, they had written their examination for people, who wanted to be admitted into the school from other schools.
So, he went to Ibeku High School. Luckily, they had not taken their own exam. He took the exam, came 1st from the lot that took the exam and was admitted. He says his one year there was very rewarding.
There, he was taught English Language by his Oxford-trained Principal, Mrs. NK Asinobi among other high profile teachers in other subjects. Mrs Asinobi was later appointed Minister of State for Interior in Shehu Shagari’s government.
On leaving high school in 1981 with excellent result, he joined NEPA as an Assistant Electrical Operator in-training. When he had saved enough money through his salary and allowance from relieve duties, he took JAMB, and entered University of Nigeria, Nsukka in 1985 where he studied Agricultural Engineering.
At 300 Level, he exhausted his savings and had to see himself through the rest of his program by teaching professors’ kids Mathematics at Professor Iloba’s residence whose kids were also taking the Mathematics lesson.
On graduation in 1990, he was posted to Borno State for his NYSC program. He did his primary assignment with M&W Pump an outpost of M&W Pump Corp. Florida. While there, he figured out the solution to a problem that held up the company from starting a production line for the indigenous manufacture of hand pump. Upon this achievement, he was asked to start the process, which he effectively and efficiently did. And this saved Nigeria a lot of foreign exchange.
Also, while there, he successfully conducted a verification exercise to ascertain the efficiency of M&W Hydraflo pumps in pressurized/automatic irrigation system in Hadejia Jamare irrigation project.
On completion of his NYSC program, the Resident Manufacturing Engineer was recalled to Florida while Nkem was asked to take his place. He turned down the offer, because of insecurity, knowing that for an Igbo, life is sacrosanct.
He moved to Lagos where he became the founding Executive Secretary of R&D International, an NGO for promoting research and development in STEMM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and Medicine) and to provide a linkage between research centres and the industry. Rev Joshua Amaezechi and Professor Bolaji Akinyemi were the founding Executive Director and Chairman, respectively.
When Professor Akinyemi joined NADECO and fled to London, following the annulment of June 12 election, Joshua and Nkem had to leave the country, too, for their own safety. Nkem left for Kuwait while Joshua later left for the US.
In Kuwait, Nkem worked with Kuwait Public Authority for Agriculture and Fisheries (PAAF) as an Irrigation Engineer. He was responsible for the design and implementation of pressurized/automatic systems, and his experience at M&W came quite handy.
Apart from a B.Eng Hons Degree in Agricultural Engineering, Nkem Ekeopara has a PGD in Journalism.
Currently, he is an Associate Director of One Degree Foundation, a partnering organization with Leadership Education Mission for Africa (LEMA); and an Opinion Writer for Houston-based USAfrica Multimedia Networks.
Nkem enjoys writing, reading and research.
He has a lovely wife, Nwamaka, with two lovely children.