Though so much has been written about Government College Umuahia over the years, so vast and rich is its 86 year history that no single book or publication can tell it all. In brief, the school was established by the British colonial government in January 1929. The Founder and first Principal was Reverend Robert Fisher, a British missionary. The College is located roughly 4 miles from the town along Umuahia – Ikot Ekpene road.
He negotiated and acquired land a little more than 4 square miles in area, then set about laying the foundations of the Eton and Harrows of West Africa. He visioned it as a world class training school for boys. This vision was met and actually surpassed in many respects. It was arguably the best secondary school in Nigeria and perhaps West Africa. This is evidenced by its long line of distinguished Old Boys. GCU indeed has had a long and proud history of educating boys into leaders in virtually all fields of human endeavour and society. For the first 50 years of its existence, the school consistently churned out quality students who went on to become world class intellectuals, professionals and statesmen. It broke virtually all academic records available in the country. As an institution, GCU led the country to a number of academic firsts.
1947 – The first school allowed to take Cambridge School Certificate exam after 5 years and not 6.
1948 – GCU had the highest number of entrants into Nigeria’s first University College, Ibadan at commencement.
1947-52- For 5 years in a row, the best graduating students with First Class Honours in Chemistry at University College, Ibadan were GCU alumni.
1952 – GCU produced the first person of African descent to obtain a Ph.D in Geodesy and later also the first African descent Proffessor of Geodesy.
1954 – GCU produced the first person of African descent to obtain a Ph.D in Geodesy and later also the first African descent Proffessor of Geodesy.
1952 – GCU student, Gregory Tanyi became the first student in West Africa to come out first in Cambridge School Certificate examination worldwide. He later completed his Doctorate Degree in six months.
GCU was the first school allowed to take West African School Certificate after 4 years instead of 5.
1976 – GCU produced the student with the best West African Examination Certificate(WAEC) result in 1976, M. Onuigbo together with three other Umuahians who also scored Aggregate 6 that year; just to mention a few.
However, GCU’s quality has declined substantially over the past 40 – 45 years. The decline has its roots in the Nigeria – Biafra civil war which was fought between 1967 – 1970. The school was closed for the period of the war, and afterwards things were never quite the same. It was impossible to cocoon the school from realities in its surroundings. The period after the war was one of desperation, deprivation and dearth of resources. The military administration eventually took over schools; discipline and merit went through the window. These developments had grave implications for staff, students and the standards the school kept pre-war. Entry standards were no longer adhered to for all sorts of reasons. Other reasons were:
- Neglect of the education sector.
- Under resourcing.
- Bribery and corruption.
- Lowering of admission standards.
- Decline in quality of teachers and teaching.
- Over population.
- Decay in infrastructure
- Lack of maintenance.
Nothing was spared, from library to laboratories, classrooms, dormitories, sports pitches, the well manicured lawns and the paved roads. It has been a heart wrenching and most tortuous experience for distinguished alumni these past years.
THE FISHER EDUCATIONAL DEVELOPMENT TRUST – Determined to put an end to the rot and restore the school as a citadel of excellence, the Govt. College Umuahia Old Boys’ Association(GCUOBA) worldwide approached the govt. to hand back the school to it to restructure, fund and manage in a sustainable way. It therefore set up the Fisher Educational Development Trust as the vehicle that will drive the process. It now requests all Old Boys, friends, well wishers, lovers of education, the govt. and community as well as NGOs, international organisations and individuals to rally round the Trust by donating generously towards the noble cause of re-creating a GCU that prepares people to lead, a College that generates excellence again. This is an important model and experiment for education in Nigeria.
In its esteemed history, Government College Umuahia has produced some of the most distinguished Africans in virtually all fields of human endeavour that it is always a difficult task to select the most distinguished out of an unbroken line of distinguished men. However, for purposes of the moment, a few names will suffice.
- Professor Chinua Achebe (1948 class) – popular African novelist
- Ben Enwonwu (1932 class) – renowned artist/sculptor
- Dr. Gabriel Okara (1935 class) – poet, author
- Christopher Okigbo (1946 class) – poet
- Chike Momah (1944 class)
- Igwe (Prof.) Vincent Chukwuemeka Ike (1945 class)
- Elechi Amadi (1946 class)
- I.N.C. Aniebo (1952 class)
- Ken Saro-Wiwa (1954 class)
- And many others
Former Vice Chancellors/Academia
- Dr. D. Ekong – UNIPORT (1947 class)
- Prof. K.A. Harrison – UNIPORT (1945 class)
- Prof. N.D. Briggs – UNIPORT (1961 class)
- Prof. G. Igboeli – Federal University of Agriculture, Makurdi, Benue State (1952 class)
- Prof. K. Ogwo – Abia State University
- General Alexander Madiebo – Commander, Biafra Army
- Brigadier General G.T. Kurubo – First Commander, Nigerian Airforce
- Col. Anthony Eze – First Commander, Signal Corps, Nigerian Army
- Col. Tim Onwuatuegwu – Biafra’s best field officer
- Navy Commander Amadi Ikwechegh – Former Governor, Imo State
- Captain August Okpe – Commander, Biafra tactical air command
- Read Admiral A.I. Ajuonu – Former flag officer, NAVTRAC, now Director of Sports, Naval Headquarters
- Rear Admiral Ogbuewu Emele – Naval Headquarters
- Col. Akobundu (Retired) – National Vice Chairman, South East PDP
Banking and Finance
- Reginald Ihejiahi, OFR – Outgoing MD, Fidelity Bank Plc
- Victor Ezenwoke – Executive Director, Diamond Bank
- Dr. Moghalu –Former Deputy Director, Central Bank of Nigeria
- U.K. Eke – Executive Director, First Bank Plc.
- Dr. M.T. Akobo (1950 class) – Former Minister of Petroleum under Shagari regime
- O. Lolomari (1947 class) former Group MD, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation
- Chambers Oyibo – former Group MD NNPC (1955 class)
- Lawrence Amu – former Group MD NNPC (1948 class)
- Dr. Edmund Daukoru (1957 class) – former Group MD of NNPC, former Minister of Petroleum
- Ben Osuno – former OPEC Secretary General
- Ben Otti – Former Group Deputy MD & Executive Director, Finance and Accounts, NNPC
Politics and Public Administration
- Achike Udenwa – former Governor, Imo State, former Minister of Commerce and Industry
- Dr. Okwesilieze Nwodo – former Governor, Enugu State, former Chairman, PDP
- Orji Uzor Kalu – Former Governor, Abia State
- Prof. Fabian Osuji – former Minister of Education
- Dr. J.O.J. Okezie – former Federal Minister
- Dr. E.M.L. Endeley (1934 class) – First Deputy Premier, Cameroun
- Dr. Victor Mukette (1934 class) – Federal Minister of Information, Uganda
- Dr. Jaja Nwachukwu (1931 class) – Nigeria’s first foreign minister
- Dr. Okoi Arikpo (1929 class) former Nigerian foreign minister
- Dr. Peter Katjavivi, former chancellor University of Namibia and Namibia’s ex-ambassador to EU
- Hon. Justice Charles Daddy Onyeama – (1930 class) – the first African Jurist to serve at the World Court in The Hague
- Hon. Sir Justice Anthony Aniagolu – (1939 class) – Retired Justice of the Supreme Court.
- Hon. Okey Achike (1948 class), Retired Justice of the Supreme Court
- G.K.J. Amachree (1933 class) – Ex – Solicitor General of Nigeria, 1stst African under Secretary-General of the United Nations
- Justice Ononiba – Immediate past Chief Judge of Anambra State
- Lucius Nwosu – Senior Advocate of Nigeria
- Late Chief Theodore Ezeobi – Senior Advocate of Nigeria
- Chief C. Ekomaru – Senior Advocate of Nigeria
- Peterside Idah – Ex-Super Eagles goal keeper
- Alex Opara – Ex Super Eagle
- Chibuzo Ehilegbu – Ex-Super Eagles striker
Among the reasons GCU became great was the quality of the teaching staff. Some of the expatriate staff were products of Eton College, Harrows, Oxford and Cambridge. They brought their very high standards with them to GCU. Many of the teachers too were authors of great books. Among them were:
- A.J. Carpenter (Master 1937), Author of ‘West African Nature Study’.
- R.H.Stone and A.B.Cozen (Master and Principal early 1950s), Authors of ‘Biology for Schools’.
- A.K.Wareham(Principal mid 1950s), Author, ‘Map Reading’.
- N.P.Iloeje(Snr Geography Master 1955/60s),Author, ‘Geography for West Africa’ and ‘Geography of Nigeria’.
- H.N.Oboli( Old Boy and Master 1960s),Author, ‘Geography for Schools’. Other former Masters were: Prof. Sabiru Biobaku(former Vice Chancellor, University of Lagos), Igwe(Prof.) Okonjo( father of Dr. Mrs.Okonjo Iweala, Nigeria’s former Minister of Finance), J.O.Nwachukwu, I.D.Erekosima(GCU’s first African Principal), G.J.Ifon, I.B.Mboto, G.C.Okezie, P.O.C.Umeh and Dr. Nchege.