But one thing that stood him out in the testimonies of all the groups that had the opportunity to interact with him is that he was a disciplinarian per excellence.Rev. Fr. Tagbo, was born on 21st August 1929, in Jos in northern Nigeria but sent by his parents to live with his grand-father in Awkuzu, in the Oyi Local Council Area, Anambra State .He attended Saint Theresa Primary School and later got admitted into Christ the King College (CKC), Onitsha from 1945-1949, for his Senior Cambridge Certificate. He also taught part time at All Hallows Seminary, Enugu. From here, he proceeded to the Bigard Memorial Senior Seminary, Enugu, from 1951-1953 for his theological studies preparatory to his priesthood. From Bigard he proceeded to the National University of Ireland, Dublin, Ireland from 1953-1956 where obtained a combined honours Bachelor of Science (B.Sc) degree in Mathematics, Chemistry, and Botany. He returned to the Bigard Memorial Seminary, Enugu from 1957- 1960, to complete his studies in Theology.
He was ordained as a priest, on July 31, 1961. In 1962 he was appointed the indigenous Principal of CKC Onitsha. Rev. Fr. Tagbo, who is an indigene of Awkuzu in Anambra State, was the first indigenous Catholic priest from Awkuzu. He was also an alumnus of CKC and has the honour of being appointed the 10th principal of CKC from 1963–1972. He returned to the School from 1976 to 1985when he retired. It was at CKC Onitsha that he moulded the lives of thousands of young Nigerians. During the Civil war he played key role is securing vital documents of the school. He spent all his years in CKC Onitsha, except for the three years he was at GSSA (1973-1976). Rev Fr. Tagbo was sent transferred to Government Secondary School Afikpo (GSSA) from 1973 and 1976. It was during his tenure at GSSA that the school was moved from Enugu to its original campus in Afikpo in 1973, following intervention of the likes Ofia Nwali, Dr. Akanu Ibiam, and Aja Nwachukwu for the military to release the school. He retired as a school principal in 1985.
On his return to CKC Onitsha, Rev. Father Tagbo did not waste time in stamping his authority in the school at a time indiscipline was becoming the norm. Some boys who wanted to rebuild their lives after the war went back to school; the social and economic disequilibrium caused by the civil war was still exerting its pressure on the survivors. But he was determined to make everybody tow the line of discipline.
For him, every student must imbibe the motto of the school: Bonitas, Disciplina, Scientia. This was made the cardinal creed that the staff and students must abide by. He suffered no indolence among the teaching staff and any student that was not prepared to play by the rules was on his way out regardless of family background.
He levelled the children of kings and nobles with those of plebeians. He demanded from all, hardwork, honesty and intelligence.
Sometimes, he would stand at the back of the classroom to follow the teaching methods of the teachers and woe betide any student caught lousing around during lectures. Every morning he reads out the college prayer:
“O’ God our Father,
Thou searcher of men’s hearts
Help us to draw near to you.
In sincerity and in truth,
May our religion be filled with gladness,
And our worship of thee be natural.
Strengthen and increase our admiration
For honest dealings and clean thinking,
And suffer not our hatred for hypocrisy and pretence,
Ever to diminish
Help to choose the harder right instead of the easier wrong
And never to be content with half-truth;
When the whole can be one.
Instill in us the courage to stand for truth,
When justice and right are in jeopardy.
This comes with a deafening Amen from a student population of about 2,500 students.
This ritual was observed from Monday to Thursday, but on Friday each of the 13 Houses in the school assemblies.
ENCOUNTER WITH REV. FATHER TAGBO
My encounter with Rev. Father Tagbo came in dramatic and expected a circumstance that was threatening to my education and advancement in life. It came during my first term in CKC Onitsha during first year and first examination as a secondary school student. We had written our first paper which was English language and the next day was the second paper: Literature in English.
On the examination day, students had gone through the usual procedure of screening and received instructions to remove the hall, all items aside from those related to writing materials. We were searched and ushered in to the hall after all the pre-examination formalities.
The Dean of Studies, Rev. Father John Okhai re-emphasised the warning already announced by the invigilator that any student caught cheating would be expelled from the school.
His presence alone was always unnerving and intimidating especially whenever he breezes into the hall or comes close to any student, let alone to have him stand by you as you write. Woes betide any student caught by Rev. Father Okhai doing something funny. In fact, you dare not enter into his trouble, to say the least. He was the most powerful tutor in the school. His word was law.
On two occasions he came to me like a moving ghost but I too engrossed in my articulations to bother about him. When I finished, I went through my script to correct errors, I checked my examination number and cross checked the number of the questions answered to ensure that they corresponded with the answers to guard against writing OP. The competition in the school was so high even for fresh students, that extra carefulness was part of the examination.
Thereafter, I submitted my script. Before gaining admission into secondary school, my sister, Stella had introduced me into the habit of reading novelettes with titles like Chike and the River by Chinua Achebe, Adventures of Souza by Kola Ogundipe, Eze Goes to School, by Onuorah Nzekwu, The Passport of Mallam Illiah, Akin the Drummer Boy, African Night Entertainment —all by Cyprian Ekwensi, Lamb Tales from Shakespeare by David and Mary Lamb. I was excited when I found some of the titles in recommended text books. I was leaving the hall when I was called back by Father Okhai and the invigilator. I thought I must have omitted something, they took me to where I sat and opened my locker, it was empty, they requested for my bag, I said it was outside. Father Okhai approached the student close to me, Uchenna Joseph Anigbata and searched, nothing was found he took the script he was reading and brought out the one I have submitted. He said we should follow him to the Office of the Principal.
On our way to the Principal’s office, he announced that he has a report that we cheated. This was like a thunder bolt and we protested instantly and vehemently. But he took to the Principal and announced our crime. Both of us protested. As soon as he announced our “offence” to the Principal, Rev. Father Tagbo reached for his cane immediately, but I stated that there should be an evidence to substantiate the allegation. There was none. We requested we should be given clean sheets of paper and a place to sit down in the Principal’s office to rewrite the exam instantly. Uchenna supported me. I told that if I am unable to reproduce what is in the original script then it should be taken that I cheated. Uchenna also agreed even without prompting. Instantly, I reeled out the first paragraph of what I wrote on my answer sheet, taken from Onuora Nzekwu ‘s Eze Goes To School. The Principal withheld his cane took a look at my script. He agreed that we should be allowed to rewrite the papers in his office. But Father Okhai bluntly refused.
Instead, he announced that his informant had told him that we also planned to cheat in the next two papers: Geography and History. He dismissed me and Uchenna in spite of all our protests. This was shocking and major bloat on us. It also became a challenge as I boasted to Father Okhai that I take the subject all the way and make a distinction in it.
Needless to say that there was greater attention and scrutiny in the two papers mentioned, but I went into the remaining examination without any incident. When the results came out I scored 98 in Geography and 95 in History. Then we exposed Human Geography and the History of Human Civilisation.
Uchenna also scored very high in both subjects. We had no options than to do well in the other subjects. In annoyance, I took my answer scripts and scores to Father Tagbo, to prove that there was injustice and act of malice against me and Uchenna. My least score was 85% in French Language. He never said anything and there was no further sanction. For him, that was the end of the matter, but having scored, zero in one subject, we have to work extra hard in the second and third terms, to get into the A-class in our second year. Uchenna became one of my closest friends. In the end we made it into the A class and went ahead from there. From then on each time Father Tagbo meets me on the corridor or comes to my class he would always drop questions unexpectedly, most times I was fortunate to provide the right answers when the lot falls on me.
LOVE FOR SPORTS
Father Tagbo loves sports and he encouraged players in all sports. However, he insisted that it must go with academics. Participation in sports was not an excuse for indiscipline or to trifle with studies. The sports season was always a delight as it created relaxed atmosphere for students but the day the football team is knocked out of the competition, is followed with the examination time table the next day.
He was a lover of sports and his return to CKC in 1976 saw the rise of the school as a football playing power again. The crowning glory came in September 1997 in Dublin, Ireland when the college football team defeated a Turkish school 2-1, to lift the World Schools’ Cup. It was the first time such a global trophy in football was won by a school from the Black continent.
After the Turkish Terrorist Agca Mehet shot Pope John Paul II, Rev. Father Tagbo saw me of Time and NewsWeek magazines, he was amazed, to know that a student we could subscribe for magazines and newspapers. From then on he always tried to engage me into discussing global affairs an literature where interest. He insisted that I should be included in the College Quiz Competition Team, we went ahead to win the 1980 Anambra State Quiz Competition. After my final papers in West Africa School certificate Examination, it was time to go. I went and informed him. Rev. Father Tagbo look at me and said: you are too young for me to name a hostel after you. I was numbed.
He took out his pen from his Sutane and wrote: “He is honest, resourceful and versatile. He represented the school in inter-collegiate quiz competitions and Chaired the College Constitution Drafting Committee appointed the Senior Prefect. He was an asset to the school.”
Tears dropped from my eyes. Here I was introduced to leaving with such a testimonial after I was introduced to him as someone who cheated in my first very first year examination. This was the testimonial I could get from a disciplinarian like Rev. Father Tagbo. It was humbling. What else could I have wished for? When I was ready to return to Bendel State, he prayed for me and I left, with a heavy heart. Everything that has a beginning must come to an end. I spoke with him on June 27, 2016 and on July 2, he answered the call to Eternity, the title of the movie I watched in his house in 1983 during the Golden anniversary of Christ The King College, Onitsha. Primus Inter Pares. Arios; Rev. Father Tagbo.