Dr Anthony Ukpabi Asika occupied a unique position in Nigeria’s history. When the country’s four regional structure was split into twelve states in 1967, he was one of those sent to administer one of the newly created entities. While the superintendents of the other eleven states were Military men, Asika was the only civilian in the pack. Thus, while his colleagues were designated Military Governors, he was called Administrator. It was so because his zone was the epicentre of the raging civil war between the Biafran rebel forces and the Federal Government troops.
Though Ibo, he was a staunch supporter of the Federal Government and did not believe in the rebel cause. An erudite scholar, Asika was appointed administrator of East-Central State in October 1967 at the start of the civil war. When the war ended in 1970, he was responsible for administering a large part of the former rebel territory. While Administrator, he was also a member of the Technical Committee on the Review of the National Census from 1973 to 1975.
Born in Onitsha (in today’s Anambra State) on June 28, 1936, Asika was educated at St. Patrick’s College, Calabar, Edo College, University College (now the University of Ibadan) and the University of California in the US (1961 – 1965). On return to Nigeria the same year, he taught Political Science at the University of Ibadan between 1965 and 1967.
Before then, he had worked as a Clerk in the Onitsha Town Council (1953), Clerk in the Department of Marketing and Export, Lagos; and Clerk at the Northern Nigeria Marketing Board, Kano.
Asika later was Team Leader of the Presidential Delegation to Niger, Chad, and Cameroun which negotiated re-opening Nigeria borders in 1985. He suffered a stroke in 1996 and was incapacitated until he died on September 14, 2004.