Peter was born in 1930, the year Chief Chukwuani died, it is said. He was raised a farmer in the ancestral tradition. Like his father, he was industrious and so preoccupied with farming that he began school late. He was eventually enrolled in school, where his surname was Anglicized to Nwomeh. Almost from the beginning, he showed a great promise. His zeal for farming appeared to have been transferred to the relentless quest for knowledge.

Peter was studious and read voraciously. His brilliance is always described in superlatives by those who knew him. As his friend Mr. Francis Onyia observed, the story of his serial academic feats is hardly told without appearing embellished. He was so outstanding in performance that he earned accelerated promotions to higher classes, finishing before those initially one to four years ahead of him. In fact, the entire primary school duration of eight years took him four years to complete.

According to Chief Mathias Nzekwe Onovo, his kinfolk and close associate with whom he was enrolled in school the same day in 1949, he was allowed to skip both the Infant 1 and 2 classes by the school headmaster who from initial assessment of his age and intelligence felt he had outgrown the infant levels. He was therefore sent to Standard 1 where he spent only one week, and thence sent to Standard 2, where he spent only one month, and was promoted to Standard 3, where it was felt his intelligence matched. Yet he came first in the Standard 3 exams by a wide margin. He thus completed Standards 1 to 3 within one year. Double promotions were not uncommon, but coming in such quick successions was a new record.

This aside, he continued to excel and set new standards in tests and examinations such that within one year of arrival, he was already popular with fellow pupils and teachers while his fame spread round the town and beyond. It was said of him that he licked exams like soup.

In retrospect, his late start may have accounted for his seeming hurry to make up for the lost years. However, the promotions were always based on the evaluations of his abilities by the instructors and the headmaster, Mr. Phillip Ene. Peter made steady progress in Standard 4 and continued to outperform his classmates. Notwithstanding, the school authorities felt he should spend the normal one year each on Standards 4, 5 and 6.

Though his reputation for academic excellence was already firmly established, it was the record he set in the Standard 6 Examination in 1952 that marked him out as an extraordinarily gifted student. Peter did not only make a distinction in the dreaded Standard 6 Examination, but his grade point average was the highest in the entire old Onitsha Ecclesiastical Province, covering the present South-East and parts of the South-South and North Central regions. In addition, and apparently most significant to the church, was his score of 97% in [Christian] Religion, an unprecedented feat in the history of the province.

The Catholic authorities were supremely impressed, so much so that they sent a white priest, the supervisor of schools in Enugu, Rev. Fr. Kelley led a delegation of zonal supervisors to present him with his result in his rural backwater, which in itself was another record.

It was however the priest’s apparent over-dramatization of the presentation ceremony, upon arrival at St. Paul’s Primary School, which instantly transformed Peter Nwomeh into a celebrity especially within school circles in Nkanu. The priest was said to have announced the result with much glee at an assembly specially convened for the purpose, where a gift was also presented to him. It was a Holy Bible, a prized possession then. The priest then ordered a ceremonial guard of honour to be staged immediately by the pupils which he led the honoree to inspect.

Not yet done, he announced that all the Catholic primary schools in Ozalla should proceed on a one day vacation as a mark of respect for Peter. Thereafter, and for long, he earned a place in local lore as a genius of sorts. His name soon crept into popular use, even among illiterates, as a metaphor for a bookworm. Any child poring over books was labeled “Peter Nwomeh”. Sometimes it was for praise and encouragement; sometimes mockery.