CHUKWUEMEKA EZEIFE— From the Pits of Apprentice-Aba ((Nwa-Boyi) Motor-Parts Trader to the Pinnacle of State Governor and Igbo Leadership

Nwankwo T. Nwaezeigwe, PhD

Date: 20 December, 2023

 

 

Beyond the shock of the sudden death of Dr. Pius Chukwuemeka Ezeife, the Okwadike of Igbo-Ukwu Clan and by extension, Igboland, what shocked me most was that he died in that most detestable Federal Mortuary Centre, officially miscalled Federal Medical Cente, Abuja, which has become notorious for calculated deaths of its patients and now doubles as the slaughterhouse for senior Christian personalities.

 

In fact, the questionable manner in which Dr. Obadiah Mailafia died at the University of Abuja Teaching Hospital (UATH), another Federal Government unofficial Mortuary Centre miscalled Hospital, makes it palpable for any notable Christian leader in Nigeria within the political circle to consider going or being taken to any of these two Federal Hospitals, whether you are of the opposition or the APC ruling party.

 

The palpability of the Federal Medical (Mortuary) Centre as the medical axis for early dispatch of notable Christian opponents to the world beyond becomes even more apparent with the assumption of office by its current Chief Medical Director Prof Saad Ahmed, a member of the inner-circle of Fulani intellectual jihadists. It takes a thirty-second phone-call on notice to dispatch a notable Christian politician to the land beyond in any Federal or State Hospital manned by a member of this cabal; bearing in mind that the same license that grants a medical doctor the authority to heal equally covers his license to kill his patients.

 

Such calculated official murder becomes even more protected when such leaders are of the ripe age of the type of Dr. Chukwuemeka Ezeife, since it would be impossible for any person to assume that a man of such age could not have died an orchestrated death. This explains why the death of Igbo political icon of our time, Okwadike Igbo-Ukwu is not just awful to the mind-set of those with esoteric sense of discernment but a reason for a studious reflection on the different strategies of jihad against Christians in Nigeria. This indeed calls for urgent vigilance when considered in the context of the fact that that was the age Okwadike was most needed among his people.

 

It is imperative to state that if you are Christian of notable status in the society, whether politician, Church leader or Businessman, and you are going or being taken to Federal Medical “Mortuary” Centre, Abuja, or University of Abuja Teaching Hospital, just put your house in order because you might not come back home alive. Indeed if you are a notable political, military or religious leader, after your unexpected dispatch from this world, the next stage would be to select any of your sons or daughters and appoint him or her to a sacrificial Federal Government position; as in the recent appointment of Mr. Alex Badeh jr. by Alhaji Ahmed Bola Tinubu, after the callous murder of his father by the same jihad-driven APC Government.

 

The fact remains that there is no way the son of Air Marshall Alex Badeh can cover the vacuum created by the death of his father at that stage of his life; instead he would become a stooge and catastrophic political errand-boy to the same people, who masterminded the demise of his father. Appoint twenty sons and daughters of Okwadike Dr. Pius Chukwuemeka Ezeife to any position in the Federal Government; it will never cover an inch of the vacuum created by the unsolicited exit of their father.

 

This brings us to the most fundamental question of the moment— is there another Igbo Leader of celebrated Integrity and unequalled Patriotism like Okwadike remaining? The answer is a “Capital No.” The Igbo had had leaders and, still have leaders. But there is always a leader among leaders at every era. Okwadike Igbo-Ukwu was a leader among leaders of our time.

 

 

He was one Igbo leader I have tested mostly in adversity and proved to be impeccable in character, audacious in principle, frugal in moral carriage, centripetal in patriotism and simplicity in flamboyance. He was a man of guided populism with sublime humility woven in dignified large-heartedness. What he was unable to give you, he assisted you in getting from somewhere else. He was the best Secretary to the Government of the Federation the Igbo never had. Okwadike was simply a leader, a beacon of patriotism and unshakable principle for those of us who were privileged to be his political disciples.

 

As one of those who staunchly believe in Igbo esoteric cosmology, I had expected Okwadike to exit this mother-earth in the honourable manner well-spoken of the Igbo sages of the old. I had expected him to predict his death in the same manner he predicted his sack as Special Political Adviser to President Olusegun Obasanjo. But that was not the case; otherwise he would have departed well relaxed on his ancestral family bed at Igbo-Ukwu and not on that miserable bed of Federal “Mortuary” Centre.

 

I had visited Okwadike at his official residence at Asokoro suburb of Abuja during his stint as Special Political Adviser to President Olusegun Obasanjo. As I stood outside discussing with his then Special Assistant, Dr. Ifedi Okwenna, he burst out of the house and yelled at me: “Odogwu! Have you been here for too long? Unfortunately I am going to my office to prepare my things because President Olusegun Obasanjo will sack me any moment.” I said but why Okwadike, and he replied, “because I was criticizing him.” And I repeated, “but why now Okwadike”, he said, “I went to his office to advise him on an important national issue and all he told me was that he is the President.” There was nothing I could say again. In less than a month, his removal from office as Special Adviser to the President was announced.

 

Okwadike was the perfect face of the moving-force of the instinctive Ikenga-Ndigbo spirit of achievement. He was a perfect proof that while the Muslim Fulani believe that the live of a cow is worth more than the life of a Nigerian Christian, the Igbo believe that the life of an apprentice-Igbo trader is not only worth more than the lives of one thousand Fulani Muslims, but a potential agent of developmental tsunami among his people anytime in the future. This is the summary of Okwadike’s life.

 

After the callous demolition of his residence at Asokoro, Abuja by Nasir el-Rufai, the former demonic Governor of Kaduna State, then Minister of Federal Capital Territory, I visited Okwadike at the home of his immediate younger brother Chief Rob Ezeife at the Southeastern wing of Asokoro, Abuja, where he was hibernating, with people who had come to sympathize with him streaming in and out. After the people had left and we were left alone, he turned to me and said, Odogwu! If you know how I came to this point of my life you should not be worried about what happened. “I was destined to be a motor spare-parts trader at Aba, but here I am a former Governor of Anambra State.” He further narrated:

“I was an apprentice-motor spare-parts trader at Aba to one man from my hometown. One of my duties was to carry the tool-box every morning to the shop. One morning, as I was lifting the tool-box on my head, it fell off my hands and crashed on the ground. The next thing that landed on my face was a thunderous slap that saw many stars flying off my eyes. The slap was so heavy that for the next 30 seconds I could neither see nor hear any sound around me.

As soon as I recovered, I vowed never to serve him again. He commanded me to pick up the scattered tools from the floor and take the box to the shop but I refused, and insisted I must go back home to my parents at Igbo-Ukwu. That day I refused to go to the shop. The next day, I insisted I must go home. On the third day, I was sent back to my parents at Igbo-Ukwu.

When I arrived at home my parents were not happy with my story, because as they said, endurance of maltreatment was one of the characteristic elements of Igbo apprenticeship system. They were making plans on how to go to Aba and plead with my master to take me back when the Pastor of our Church announced on the following Sunday Church service that there was going to be a scholarship examination competition at Nnewi for admission to Hope Waddell Training Institute, Calabar. I immediately signified interest and was subsequently selected by our Church.

I sat for the examination and passed. I was eventually admitted to Hope Waddell Training Institute, Calabar, where I studied for three years and thereafter became a Primary School Grade 3 teacher. It was from that point that I resolved to move further ahead in education. I registered and sat for Cambridge University GCE O’ and passed. I decided to move further again and registered for GCE A’ Levels and passed, which enabled me to eventually gain admission to study Economics at the University of Ibadan. Today I am what I am because God, and not people like el-Rufai changed the course of my destiny.”

 

As the Igbo say, looking at the mouth of an old woman, one will not believe that she once sucked her mother’s breast. That was the case of Okwadike Ndigbo. Okwadike symbolizes the heart and mind of the Igbo go-getter spirit, the driving force of hope that gives every Igbo apprentice-trader or barrow-pusher in motor parks the belief that one day it shall be victory over poverty, ignorance and political servitude. Okwadike saw and witnessed both banks of the river of life. He did not need anyone to define for him how poverty tastes or how affluence tastes. He effectively and profitably applied the thesis of these two banks of the river of life in his dealings with every category of humanity he came across.

 

As a former Governor of Anambra State, Okwadike lived with no Police orderly, no private security guard at his home—both the one at Asokoro Abuja and the one at Igbo-Ukwu. As a former Governor of Anambra State, Okwadike while supervising the allocation of thousands of plots of land in Awka Capital Territory failed to allocate a single plot to himself. He was waiting to ensure that the people got their own plots of land first before getting his when General Sani Abacha struck and removed him from office.

 

As a former Governor of Anambra State, Okwadike had no single personal house in Awka. Most of us were witnesses to how he acquired his present once disputed plot in Asokoro, long after his peers had become multiple landlords and land-owners in Abuja. As a former Governor of Anambra State, Okwadike whenever he decided to stay in Awka for some long engagements, he habitually lodged in one obscure non-star hotel in Awka, strategically located just adjacent Old Nnamdi Azikiwe University Bus Park, for easy access for all the people who needed to meet him.

 

As a former Governor of Anambra State, Okwadike could not afford a well serviceable luxury car for a long time and, was struggling with a struggling old Kia car model, until one day, after repeated failed attempts to convince Governor Peter Obi to give him a good car; he forcefully seized a blue Peugeot 406 car from the Government House, Awka. The embarrassment of that episode eventually compelled Anambra State Government to officially allocate to him a Toyota Prado Land Cruiser truck. Which Igbo leader can beat this?

 

Okwadike added much greater moral values to the patriotic struggles some of us are engaged in today, even without the support of physical cash, than the combined forces of other notable Igbo leaders masquerading as defenders of the Igbo cause. To some of us, Okwadike was more than just a political father. He was a living ancestral Igbo legend who combined the intriguing force of an audacious Lion-father with the composite force of sublime fatherly compassion.

 

He was the type of a leader you will alert any moment that you are in trouble and he will quickly swerve into action without deceptive stories. In fact, if God had given Okwadike one-hundredth of the type money people like Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, Chief Arthur Eze, Chief Ifeanyi Ubah and Chief Emeka Ofor, among other political-money miss-road of Igboland were given, Igboland would not have remained what it is today in his lifetime in political and economic contexts.

 

I first met Okwadike in action during my nine-year stint of civil rights activism in Lagos State, after my dismissal from the Department of History and International Studies, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, in 1999 by the then Vice Chancellor, Prof Ginigaeme Mbanefoh, as the letter conveyed, on the orders of the Head of State and Commander-in-Chief of the Nigerian Armed Forces, General Abdulsalami Abubakar for undisclosed reasons.

 

Not long after my arrival in Lagos to begin another phase of my activism, I was adopted as a political son and Special Advice by Chief Frank Ovie-Kokori, the then General Secretary of NUPENG and iconic hero of democracy of June 12 fame, who unfortunately just departed this mother-earth few weeks ago. That period coincided with the incessant harassment and attacks against Igbo traders in Lagos State, including those working in Apapa Wharf by Oodua People’s Congress (OPC), just as it is presently happening.

Every now and then Chief Kokori would mock me over the helpless situation the Igbo found themselves in the hands of OPC in Lagos State. So, one day I decided to confront the monster frontally. I moved to Dr. Frederick Faseun’s Century Hotel in Ago Palace Way, Okota, to meet him. He was however having a meeting. So we agreed to meet the next day at his private clinic, Besthope Hospital, Araromi Street, Mushin.

To be continued.

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