CELEBRATING UBULU UKU FIRST WELDER, LATE VINCENT IKEM
By Anthony Awunor
Prior to Late Mr. Vincent Ikem return to Ubulu Uku from Port Harcourt in early 70s, many indigenes of Ubulu Uku community never believed there were machines and equipment that could join broken pieces of iron together. Bending, cutting and polishing iron materials were very difficult tasks at those early periods.
At that time, once an iron breaks, it was thrown away as there was no welder in the entire town. Those who really need to get their iron materials welded go as far as Agbor, Asaba and even Benin to get them welded with huge costs. Though, there were blacksmiths but their exploits in terms of iron bending, welding and constructions were highly limited with the changing times.
But with the return of Mr. Ikem popularly known as Vinco, it was easier for people in Ubulu Uku to do their welding jobs right there in the town.
Born in Port Harcourt, Mr. Ikem spent his early life there in the Rivers State capital. Along the line, he learnt the welding trade early and after apprenticeship, he quickly started work with Scheel, a construction company as their oil pipeline welder which he did for many years. The young man was however, forced back home during the Nigerian civil war. Coming back home involuntarily, he set up his welding workshop at Agbonta Umuozoma which can be described today as the very first welding workshop in Ubulu Uku.
Since he opened his shop, Mr. Ikem has produced many outstanding jobs that are enough to win local and international awards for the welder. For instance, he was the very welder who introduced the concept of hand-driven ambulance truck. Since then, churches started using such ambulances to convey corpses to and from their churches. The concept was the handiwork of Mr. Ikem. In addition, he was the welder who built the first St Charles Roman Catholic Church gate at Idumubo Village decades ago.
Apart from his exploits in design and constructions, Mr Ikem had trained several welders in Ubulu Uku and even in neighboring communities, who in turn trained others. His quality jobs remain the reason why customers besiege his workshop at all times.
As a first son of his father who died as early as 1972, Vincent has been a very courageous and forward-looking person. Despite life challenges, he forged ahead in life with optimism alongside his siblings: Mrs Vero Ndekwu, Mr Emma Ikem, Mrs Theresa Odibeli and Mrs Mary Ikem.
Vincent Ikem, a staunch Roman Catholic Church member was very hardworking and he lived a humble and brave life. As a chieftain of the old Unity Part of Nigeria (UPN), he played a major role at the grassroots level during the second republic.
He is blessed with promising children, among whom are: Engr Patrick Ikem, Ngozi Ikem and Jessica Ikem.
This our Ubulu Uku hero died December, 22, 2007 but he has left two things behind. One is his legacy of being the first ever welder Ubulu Uku has produced. The other legacy is that his metallurgical savvy was not a waste. In his wisdom, before his passing on, he had brought up and trained his first son, Engr. Patrick Ikem who is already an engineer, in the technical way. The implication is that his first and only surviving son can virtually do all kinds of work as far as welding is concern.
Though, Engr. Patrick studied Electrical Engineering at Edo State University (EDSU), Ekpoma, he still has a lot to offer in line of his father’s business.
Commenting on the life of his father, , Engr. Patrick said “As the only surviving son, my father inputted all his technical know-how on me. With that, I can do virtually everything concerning his job”.