Few sprinters could have dominated their sports as incredibly as “CKC” Peter Ofili did in Mid-West, Bendel, National Zone Four and indeed the entire Nigeria from the late 1960s to mid-1970s. Wherever he competed, the CKC initials, his alias really, which stood for the revered Christ the King’s College (Onitsha) always blared forth from the radio stations and the public address systems, as he fully identified with the first secondary school he attended.
C K C Onitsha’s loss became St. Anthony’s College, Ubulu-Uku, Aniocha LGA, Delta State’s gain in 1965, when he changed schools. When he was in Form Two, he was already a member of the school’s relay quartet. The following year, he had become the school’s champion and a notable figure in the invitation relays that used to light up secondary schools’ inter house sports meets.
By 1969 St. Anthony’s College scored 100 per cent in the West African School Certificate examination, and emerged Midwest state’s football champion, winning the Frank Giwa-Osagie cup for secondary schools, defeating Edo College Benin City in the Semi-Finals and Notre Dame College, Ozoro, in the finals on July 26, 1969 – both at Ogbe Stadium Benin City. Even as memorable as that soccer victory remains in the history of the school, as both the semi and the finals were openly dubbed Biafra versus Nigeria (the Nigerian Civil war was still raging and St. Anthony’s College, was/is in the Igbo-speaking area of Mid-West), CKC still gave the school and the entire Anioma people a great cause for celebration. That year, Peter Ofili made the victories not just a double but a triple by emerging the State secondary school’s 100 and 200 yards champion. It was an unending celebration from Agbor to Asaba.
It is difficult these days when secondary school sports no longer matter to appreciate what such sports victories meant to schools, towns, LGAs and even regions then. A member of the St. Anthony’s 1969 football team, Mr. Marius Offor, Nigeria’s former career Ambassador to several countries who retired from the Foreign Service as a Director, still remembers that one Issele-Uku-based businessman simply called Kogos, went round the entire Anioma area announcing that any who wanted to go and cheer up the Anioma soccer flag-bearers at Ogbe Stadium should come to Agbor for free vehicles to and from Benin! Well, that July 26, 1969, “Biafra” won in Benin even though the real Biafra would lose to Nigeria six months later.
Ofili Peter passed out of St. Anthony’s College in 1970, but that year’s WASC was cancelled nationwide, and the exam was repeated in 1971. Actually, it was when he arrived Edo College, Benin Cityin 1972 , on then Gov. Samuel Ogbemudia’s scholarship, for his Higher School Certificate course that he flowered – as the better sports facilities in Benin and the Ogbe Stadium environment and availability of coaches enhanced his raw talent; there was no stopping him as he seemed to have grown wings and flew.
That was where the star in him became a super star as he began to really dominate the entire Nigerian secondary school sprints. One time House of Representatives Member, Hon. Chris Chiedu Ashibuogwu, who met Ofili in Edo College noted that all through Nigeria by 1972 and ’73, only one Kasali, from Government College, Ibadan, was his rival in the 100 yards. He added that “that rivalry did not extend to the 200 yards which was longer and so was advantageous for Ofili who was propelled not only by his long swift legs but also by his great energy. Man, to have watched CKC then was to get a preview of the Usain Bolt of today”.
Mr. Victor Uwabor (alias Attila), 1972 Athletics Captain of St. Anthony’s College, said that both himself and Pious Dike (alias Mac Butcher) football captain who was in the state academicals camp for both football and long-jump met Ofili in sports camp in 1972 and after. Atilla said that after leaving Anthony’s, Ofili left the Lady Manuwa and Grier Cup events and began to compete in the Thompson championships for HSC students, and still remained champion. Uwabor said CKC (with Okoh and Dejumo) did for Edo College much more than he did for St. Anthony’s College. Uwabor was in camp for Mid-West for the 1973 National Sports Festival, when the authorities invited Ofili into the national camp to prepare for the January 1973 Second All-Africa Games. Ghana’s Ohene Karikari won both individual sprints events. But Ofili was a member of the four by 100 metres relay team that won a gold medal for Nigeria – ahead of Ghana and Ivory Coast.
By this time, Ofili had become an unchallenged champion in National Zone Four; made up of Bendel, Lagos and Western State (comprising Oyo, Ogun, Osun, Ekiti, Ondo states) as Nigeria was divided into Zones for easier sports administration in early 1970s.
It was in 1974, at an Ogbe stadium competition, that “C K C” Peter Ofili erased every doubt that he was a national champion, not just a school boy sports wonder. He beat all comers as Nigeria was beginning its preparation for the 1976 Olympics. After all the preparations, Nigeria joined 24 other African countries to boycott the Montreal, Canada, Olympics to protest New Zealand’s sporting links with apartheid South Africa.
For C K C, that was it. He packed his bags, left both athletics and Nigeria and went to the United States of America for further studies. He Joined the Delta State Civil Service on his return. He retired a few years back and died late December last year at age 65.
Uwabor who represented Bendel in the 1973 and ’75 National Sports Festivals described Ofili Peter as “truly special, truly determined and his likes are rare in sports as he combined speed with gritty determination plus energy. Dr. Austin izagbo, a former Delta State Sports Commissioner, who was goalkeeper for St. Anthony’s College in 1971 and also for Obafemi Awolowo University in the mid-1970s, said “remarkably, Ofili achieved mastery of his sport in Anthony’s without the aid of coaches. He depended on raw talent which he had in absolute abundance. He could have been a world-beater if he was better guided. He was also always well-behaved.
Kester Nwadiani, a Lagos-based Medical Doctor said of CKC Peter Ofili, his classmate at St. Anthony’s College, Ubulu-Uku: “he was humble, though he was a star. Off the field, he had a wonderful zest for life, so there was never a dull moment with him, as a trade mark smile and easy laughter kept his flashy white teeth almost on perpetual display. But on the sports track; he was easily transformed into a human sprints machine that beat all-comers. He was incredible and yet ordinary. He carried his greatness with amazing humility. He was a revelation; he was pure and superlative act. My very soul mourns!
To Marius Offor, “CKC was really special. We should not mourn at his death, but we should celebrate that special man who, apart from his plenitude of talent, competed with unequalled determination. CKC was national champion yes, he was. But I saw him in his best performance at the Pilgrim Baptist Grammar School, Issele-Uku’s Inter House sports, around 1969. Our local rivals, Anglican Grammar School, were leading in the invitation relay finals. By the time CKC received the baton, the Anglican last leg was far gone. But CKC not only caught up with him, he came first. That feat surpassed all explanation. It was magical”.
Yes, the life of the late Mr. Peter Ofili, alias C K C was magic-packed. But that magic ended when he died late December last year at age 65. He was buried Friday 27th January 2017. He is survived by Letitia, his wife of 33 years, and their four children – of which none is a sprinter. He had lit up spectators imaginations for almost a decade of spectacular performances. He gave them some moments of magic to remember. He will never be forgotten in the history of both St. Anthony’s and Edo College. He was a leading glory of both schools – to that list please add C K C Onitsha, whose name he not only bore but also glorified.
*Eluemunor, a journalist, finished from St. Anthony’s College Ubulu-Uku in 1976.