Ezenwa Nkachukwu Egbunike, a Year After…

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Ezenwa Nkachukwu Egbunike (1945-2016)

“Life is changed not ended…”

This is one of those times when words become meaningless. The senses are so attuned that silence seems the best response to riotous emotions. The deep sense of gratitude within many layers of grief are so palpable that only time can cure it. A year today, you breathed your last on this spatial and ephemeral space.

Ezenwa I know that you can see and hear the trudging of my heart as I try to write this…. The price of love is to be vulnerable for both the object and subject of love does not end here. Rather it lives in the memory of the lover.

Your transition was not sudden, yet it took the winds off our sails. For a year you battled the excruciating result of a failed state. You bore the marks of the many millions who our highways have swallowed into the void of nothingness. For a year we struggled to save you but it was not be as we had hoped.

Then it happened… That unforgettable day a year ago, when the doctor gave that damming report, “he’s gone!” The damn broke, I wept!

Time stood still. The pent up emotions tore with ferocious shamelessness. It had ended here under for you.  The door down below has closed and that up above opened up in welcome.

It’s been a year that zoomed past in voracious haste. The ties are stronger, more delicate and refined. In life you shed the torch that we might find and keep to the way. In life that ends not, you kept faith with us, morphing into an intercessor of unimaginable fecundity.

It does not end here… It never will. Your life was indeed a libation poured out for us. You planted and watered the arid desert that now blooms with fragrance of fresh flowers. You never minded the thorns so long as we picked the roses. You were that seed planted in rocky field that grew to become a forest. If anyone were to ever deserve being named ‘sacrifice’ you personalized and lived it till the end.

Ezenwa Onicha, you’ll remain the man I hope to become.

 

#147NotJustANumber: #Garissa will Never Be Forgotten!

By Nwachukwu Egbunike

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A nation united in grief (Images courtesy of Boniface Mwangi)

Alas, terror seems to be taking a devious hold on Africa – from Baga to Garissa. The devious lunatics of gruesome hate are on rampage. The numbness of death has precipitated unlimited grief. Our common humanity is tested. But we shall not be cowed. We shall never submit to fear!

While we grief these deaths, yet we must humanize the dead. Their identity matters, they are no mere statistics. That’s why the naming ceremony in many parts of Africa is not mere trifle: it’s a rite. The precursor of the definitive passage, death.

Thus, after the terrorist massacre in Kenya’s Garissa University College, Kenya’s are united in grief. Bent but not broken they honour the dead with a vigil on April 7 and 8, 2015. A statement by the organizers reads:

…the tragedy of terrorist attacks that have plagued Kenya since the 1998 bombing of the US Embassy in Nairobi, and escalated sharply between 2012 and 2014. In the second deadliest terrorist attack on Kenyan soil, 147 innocent lives were lost in the senseless attack. The victims included students of Garissa University College, police officers who responded to the alarm, soldiers who were called in to battle and a night guard who was doing his duty. This is just a year after Kenyans were left reeling from the Westgate attack that took 67 innocent lives.
Speaking before the vigil, one of the organizers Kenyan activist Boniface Mwangi said, “We have a responsibility to honor the memories of our departed brothers and sisters. The 147 were brothers, sisters, sons and daughters, the greatest dishonor we can give them is to reduce them to a mere number, they are not just a number. This vigil is about all Kenyans observing their responsibility to one another We must not allow our selves to be numbed by this attacks so that we just move on like it’s the norm. As a nation we have been through trying times and today we forge together and not even a terrorist’s bullet will break us apart.”
As a show of support, Kenyan activist Ory Okolloh also known as @kenyanpundit on Twitter, coined the hashtag #147NotJustANumber in an effort to humanize victims of terror. The hashtag has gone viral worldwide, with support coming from online social media users across the world.
Here are some pictures from the vigil [photos courtesy of Boniface Mwangi]:

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Dora Akunyili – Ijele Nwanyi!

A Dirge by Nwachukwu Egbunike

Late Professor Dora Akunyili

Late Professor Dora Akunyili

 

Ogulani

By Nwachukwu Egbunike

 

The waves from the Niger sing

Flowing from deeps

To chants of dirges

For the fading of a prince

 

Hopping from Oke Ado

To the plains of Potiskun

Nkisi roars with pain

Ado N’Idu is inconsolable

 

The crimson cap

Carried on a royal cape

With beads of bronze

And twigs of valor

 

Peering into the future

Carrying the past

Curetting the present

Is the diviner’s feat

 

Though the garden

Bloomed once with promise

Blighted now with pestilence

The plough never paused

 

For in those veins

Pumped via valves

Flowed the sovereign blue

Polished with silvery hues

 

While others spoke

Words were made wise

Fitting of a sage

Flanging off aberrant fallacy

 

 

The flame tree

That illuminated

Without consuming

But cauterizing flippant fools

 

The imperious imposters

Impersonating jesters

Drumming thé dansant

Dregs of a desolate desert

 

Their vile and bitter theobromine

Undertakers of a stale theater

Drowns not the beauty

That flowed from your bosom

 

Though you slept with these pains

The insolence of ingratitude

But with your royal fans

You dusted them to oblivion

 

Ogulani

The garden

Will bloom again

That’s a promise

Dr May Nzeribe Goes Home

Late Dr May Nzeribe

I met Dr Nzeribe for the first time about a year ago. He had attended a book presentation – one of our titles – and wanted to meet the publisher. He called me and I went to his office in Ikeja. We spoke about his then potential title and that was how we went ahead to publish his book Advertising Ethics and Regulation in Nigeria: The Challenges. 

 

After the book presentation in June this year, Dr Nzeribe informed me of his intention to finally tell his story about the Nigerian Civil War. Being the ADC of General Chukwuemeka Ojukwu, late Head of State of Biafra. He sent in the manuscript – Biafra: Dead on Arrival – and it was being assessed when he became ill.

I gave him a call and his response lacked the forcefulness which is his trademark. Anyone who is acquitted with Dr Nzeribe will easily understand that he spoke with the serenity of the silver-haired but has not lost the spirit of a soldier. While I wished him a quike recovery, little did I know that it was our last discussion on this part of the divide. A few weeks afterwards, I was greeted with the news that death has sent Dr Nzeribe to the eternal rest. As they say the rest his history.

Dr Nzeribe was an accomplished advertiser. The blurb of his book, Advertising Ethics and Regulations in Nigeria: The Challenges read thus:

Advertising Ethics and Regulations in Nigeria: The Challenges by Dr May Nzeribe (Feathers and Ink: Ibadan, 2012)

May M. Nzeribe has devoted a large portion of his working life to assisting in internalising advertising practice standards. He has, at various times, served the advertising industry in Nigeria and globally; contributing to an enabling environment for adequate consumer protection. Dr Nzeribe served on the International Advertising Association (IAA) World Board of Directors, as well as a member of IAA’s Professional Development Group. He was President of IAA Nigeria Chapter, three terms President of the Association of Advertising Practioners of Nigeria – AAPN (now Association of Advertising Agencies of Nigeria – AAPN). He was formerly chairman of Nigeria’s Advertising Standards Panel (ASP) and APCON respectively.  Dr May Nzeribe is the only Black African recipient of the IAA’s Medal of Merit (London, 2000).

According to the family, Dr Nzeribe’s funeral is slated as follows:

Lying in State: Wednesday, November 28, 2012 at this residence.

Funeral: On November 29th, 11.00 am at Victoria Court, Km 36, Lagos-Epe Expressway.

May God rest his soul, Amen!

Sir Conrad Ikemefuna Bosah

Late Sir Conrad Bosah

Late Sir Conrad Bosah

It is a curious thing, the death of a loved one. We all know that our time in this world is limited, and that eventually all of us will end up underneath some sheet, never to wake up. And yet it is always a surprise when it happens to someone we know. It is like walking up the stairs to your bedroom in the dark, and thinking there is one more stair than there is. Your foot falls down, through the air, and there is a sickly moment of dark surprise as you try and readjust the way you thought of things.
― Lemony Snicket, Horseradish: Bitter Truths You Can’t Avoid

Life is a mystery and death a bigger puzzle. Few men can stand the gaze of time and come out on top. And none will match the place of my boss and mentor, Sir Conrad Ikemefuna Bosah. As much as I grief your translation from the temporary reality – called life – to the permanency of immortality, yet I owe a debt of gratitude.
As the Managing Director of Anambra Newspapers, publishers of National Light and Spokesman, you gave me my first job as a cub-reporter. While the immediate purpose was to keep a young lad busy and out of harm’s way, the eternal repercussion was to navigate me to where I truly belong – the world of words. As the prophet you were, you saw through the latent talents I had and knew that my proper home was not in the laboratory but to be soaked in ink.
I would not call you a ‘veteran’ journalist – asides being a cliché that has been over-used – it cannot capture the essence of the style journalism you practiced and taught us to follow. You went through the ranks – rising from a reporter of Daily Star to its managing director. Your journey in the old Anambra State Government House as Chief Press Secretary was an assignment that you carried out with diligence. When the late Zik was mistakenly announced dead by the NTA, you stood your grounds and countered that fallacy with facts. Though the announcement was made on the 9.00pm NTA Network News, you drove down to Nsukka and back that very night.
What then is the essence of mortality, if not to crave for immortality? You pioneered the establishment of Spokesman and National Light Newspapers for the new Anambra State. And from their replicated your Midas touch in Vanguard newspapers.
I’ll speak no more; it’s difficult to let go, but yet more painful to accept this loss. Goodnight Sir Conrad Ikemefuna Bosah – my boss and mentor.

Odumegwu Ojukwu: Vilified Alive but Celebrated at Death

Ojukwu was “vilified, dishonoured but today he is dead and being celebrated. Why must somebody die before his greatness is recognised?” – Rev Prof Obiora Ike (Sermon at Okpara Square, Enugu).

Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu has gone the way of all men. His earthly remains was interned yesterday, March 2, 2012 in Nnewi, Anambra State. Ironic but this controversial figure did not receive as much accolades when alive but as soon as his crossed the line to the world thereafter, there has been an unquenchable rain of eulogies. That in itself is unfortunate but not surprising!

Not at all shocking because we live in a clime that celebrates mediocrity. For those who unfortunately do not fit this mold, but rather take a stance without minding the consequences. Emeka Odumegwu Ojukwu never cared about the applause that his actions will generate. He was never afraid of rocking the boat! If he cared, he would not had taken the stance of standing up for his people while they were butchered. Much have been said about his background, not relying solely on his family pedigree, he had the opportunity not to do nothing, but he did not. He did what he did and stood by it. The irony was the question he asked continues to resonate till date.

Ojukwu’s death aside the tributes should be a time to reflect once more on our national question. The unity of Nigeria remains non-negotiable but we cannot just wish away our differences. It is about time we face the obvious: no need to gossiping and whispering about them, we have to sit down and talk about them. In that way, we will strengthen our unity and resolve our differences.That is the only way to truthfully pay tribute and honour the memory of Ikemba Nnewi, Dim Odumegwu Ojukwu.

Borrowing the words of Bianca, Ojukwu’s widow:

Adieu …Ikemba, Amuma na Egbe Igwe, Odenigbo Ngwo. Eze-Igbo Gburugburu, Ibu dike. Chukwu gozie gi, Chukwu debe gi. Anyi ga afu na omesia.

Nnodu Mma!

We fatten and fatten you with youth and brain. But still you’re not satisfied! We’re never guests when you set your tables. Always you dine and wine, picking our choice cuts, our promises, our children, our leaders. But still, your bossy fingers itch for more and more. Why do it to ours? If this be the prize for gold and other things, why not take your anger to those who anchor me to seat and die for your keeping? … Tell me, Earth, why, why, why me? I do not grow fat and rich! My people do not wreck you, our earth of our forefathers. – Lindiwe Mabuza, “Wake” in Chinua Achebe and C. L. Innes (Ed) The Heinemann Book of Contemporary African Short Stories. 1992, p 41.

Neither the seven hills nor the brown roofs of this realm could block the shrill that broke forth with your sleep. The heavens neither shook nor did the earth grumble, yet the stillness of nothingness is too palpable to deny. The fangs dug deep into the recesses of your mild frame, plucked were it did not plant and fled thinking it has triumphed.

This perfidious pilfer has cut short our intimacy down under, only to usher you into ecstasy high over. It seems like a trick, played so fast that one only hope is fads so soon. Like the mist that gathers in the morn only to be scattered by the sun; someone should awake me from this dream!

How come this same road that you have plied a thousand times over, has now opened up to swallow you? If only that ‘mass’ transit had not gone amok with the hellish speed on that expressway? You would have remained if, and only if, help came fast enough? Perhaps I am biased and would be told as such if I point fingers on those who have shamelessly consumed our common patrimony? Had that road been in good condition, had the craters been smoothed with tar, had…

Onwu ama egbu! Nne Oby, nodu mma!

OLUYOMI DIPO FASHINA (1980-2010)

I have asked a thousand times over, since I heard of your passage, that someone should tell me that this is a joke, that Yomi Dipo Fashina (DF) is not dead. But unfortunately, DF is no more and that is the plain truth. Death has stung and with it fangs has slew deep and plucked a young man in full prime. What makes it particularly painful was that Yomi’s death was uncalled for; he was strangled by the noose called Lagos-Ibadan Expressway.

“…DF died on Sunday 14th November, 2010, early evening hours, at a private hospital in Lagos. Yomi was on his way from Lagos on Tuesday 9th November when the bus in which he was travelling had an accident. He sustained several fractures in different parts of his body. Yomi went through indescribable pains but he bore them gallantly”, read the mail I received from our lecturer – Dr
Ayo Ojebode.

DF was a journalist, in the Features Desk of the Nigerian Tribune, Ibadan. We made acquaintance in the graduate class of the department of Communication and Language Arts of the University of Ibadan. What really crystallised our friendship was a focus group discussion (FGD) we conducted together – Yomi, John, Folake and I. Combing Ibadan, fixing up FGD’s with mechanics, civil servants and undergraduates, Yomi displayed a high level of intellectual grasp of the research and also a profound sense of humour.

Besides, I joined him in a brief stint in the Nigerian Tribune. Naturally we both were on the same desk. It’s no fallacy, but DF was the soul of that beat. My friend moulded words, turning them into beautiful prose. Many a times, we had to prepare the Features Xtra pages and this usually meant leaving the office late. While the tardiness that characterised those days always gave me danders, Yomi was perpetually serene. Though he shared my frustration, however his reaction always differed from mine. His ability to withstand harsh conditions is outstanding.

Our Master’s thesis was hinged on the same theoretical framework, though our focus differed. DF helped me to fully come to terms with the theory, after our mutual supervisor had laboured – unsuccessfully – to knock it into my head. Hand in hand we worked – scarping for literature for a relatively new theory; doing the field work; beating the deadline for the submission of our dissertation. And after all these, when it was time to reap the reward; death, mounted on a chariot, snatched Yomi away!

DF has joined the thousands of souls that the Lagos-Ibadan has speedily carried to their ancestors. How can it be that in 2010 it takes a record breaking three hours, if you are lucky, for  a journey that should not exceed one and half hours? DF was murdered by the same people we have entrusted with our common good. All those who have choped the funds destined for the repair of this road, have Yomi’s bloods on their hands. The spill out of corruption is not just theoretical, it has practical repercussions. While we siddon look, expecting things to get better without lifting a finger to reverse them; we are only digging our graves. Yomi would have been alive if the craters in that road were filled. Yomi would not have gone if other road users were a bit considerate. Yomi would have stayed with us, with his laughter, if not for the recklessness of other drivers. And I would certainly not be writing a tribute, if that road was in perfect condition.

Yeye boy, what am I to do with your CV? How about your excitement of turning your hobby – photography – into a means of putting food on the table? Did you manage to save enough for the camera? You wanted to do a PhD, how come the dream should die so young and abruptly? Remember those rides home after work, with your unbeatable propensity to tune the dial to the highest volume? The yabs that I should install a proper juke box in the car and not to rely on the fickleness of FM stations? What are friends for…? But Yomi is no more to answer my queries.

I cannot demur with our teacher and friend, Dr Ayobami Ojebode; “I am sure Yomi has gone to be with his Lord, and he feels pity for all of us. I hope when it is my turn and your turn, those left behind will be able to say that they knew we have gone to be with the Lord. Now is the time to be sure. I have no more to say for now.” Rest in peace my dear friend from a different mother. Your death hurts, but who dares takes war to God’s house?

 

 

 

LEO UZO BOWS OUT

Nwachukwu Egbunike

May the most just and most lovable will of God be done, be fulfilled, be praised and eternally exalted above all things. Amen, Amen. – St. Josemaría, (The Way: 691)

Mr Leo Uzoh

Mr Leo Uzo

No matter how hard it appears the reality is that Leo Uzo has gone the way of all mortals. After a 66 year sojourn, Leo bade farewell to this planet to a warm embrace with his Creator. That in itself nonetheless, has not stopped the tears from flowing. Being human, I would have loved that he tarries awhile with us; being Christian, am convinced that Leo has only changed home.

Whence does this certainty come from? Can it not be a delusion or a mere courtesy of speaking well of the dead? In Leo’s case, his life was a testimonial that Christianity is no hallucination. That while most of us carry on with life as if there is no eternity, Leo lived with eternity always focussed before him. That does not mean that he left the legitimate concerns of his peers, secluding himself within the confines of the sacristy. On the contrary, he strode the streets of Lagos as a man in love with the world.

Leo was a man of many parts, a pharmacist, writer, teacher and a great parent. He was passionate about the transmission of values to both the young and not so young. Leo was a shinning example to those of us struggling to build up our careers.

While I commiserate with the Leo’s family on the death of their patriarch and friend, I am certain that his labours have not been in vain. God gives and he takes, not like a hunter (who shots down his prey) but like a farmer (who only takes the ripe fruit).

May Leo’s soul rest in perfect peace, Amen.