By Ingram Osigwe
In Igbo mythology, the Iroko tree is the king of the tress and is revered as such. An Iroko tree, imposing and firmly rooted in the soil, is rarely uprooted by any natural phenomena such as wind or thunderstorms.
However, when the unthinkable happens and Iroko tree finds itself on the ground, the incident is regarded as a catastrophe of monumental dimension.
Like an Iroko tree, Chief Bestman Obiefoka Clement Onyedi (Onwa Azia) has been uprooted by natural phenomena- death. And his friends, family, well-wishers and indeed his community, Azia in Ihiala local government area of Anambra state, are in deep mourning.
A shrewd businessman and industrialist, Chief Onyedi bowed to death at 70, leaving behind a trail of good deeds and elegant commentaries about such good deeds. The late Chief Onyedi’s life, whether as a pupil at the Sacred Heart school, Onitsha, Electro College, Asaba, a student at St.Jude Technical College, Ihiala or a Captain in the Biafran Army, was characterized by selflessness, service to God, humanity and community. And he was endeared to many who came across him for this.
This could be gleaned from the total and unwavering commitment prominent Nigerians within and outside Azia showed to his burial plans. Of particular mention are Chief Jude Evergreen Onyedum, Chief Uzama Okpaleke and Chief Ignatius Nnubia. They painstakingly organized the committee of friends that have gone out of their ways to plan for a befitting burial for the fallen Iroko.
The late Onyedi was a dedicated Christian and a devout Catholic. He identified himself in all the areas he could and touched lives both in Azia and in Lagos.
His philanthropic gestures to the church and humanity are legion. For example, he single-handedly built the Chapel in St. Andrews Parish Azia. He contributed immensely in the development of all the Catholic Churches in Azia and in Ihiala Local Government Area as a whole.
Born in Lagos in 1948, Chief Onyedi was detribalized Nigerian who spent most of his life in the city. He was not found wanting in the social, religious and community development of his places of residence in Lagos.
He was a pioneer member and a builder in many Catholic Churches in Lagos such as St. Leo Ikeja, St. Sabina Agege, St. Cyprian Oko Oba, Christ The King Akowonjo, St. Pio Dopemu and St. and Thomas Onilekere Ikeja. Multiple awards were given to him by these parishes for promoting them and his services to God.
He was the P.T.A Chairman of Command Secondary School, Ipaja, Lagos for eight years, unopposed, largely because of his active work in building and improving the welfare of the students. Chief Onyedi received series of awards from the school as a reward for his selfless service.
Azia is mourning not only because it lost an illustrious son but also because it lost a God-fearing man, one who stood for justice, fairness and equity. A man with a heart of gold who brought freshness and touch of modernity to the town.
Chief Onyedi was indeed God-fearing and a respecter of humanity who hated injustice. He fought for the less privileged anytime, anywhere.
As a philanthropist and a community builder, he committed his time in building and development of his home town Azia before, during and after his tenure as Azia General Assembly (A.G.A.) President General both home and Abroad.
His love for humanity was extended to the neighbouring towns in Ihiala Local Government Area, Anambra State and Nigeria as a nation. You cannot talk about the Rural Electrification and Road projects in Azia without mentioning the late Onyedi for he was fully involved in making Azia a modern town.
Chief Onyedi’s love for education and philanthropy resonated in so many ways. For example, he awarded scholarships to Azia students who were ready to read in and extended his love and charity to the less privileged everywhere.
Regardless of his age, he was very much in love with the Youths and motivated them in their good works in Azia. He was the Patron of Azia Youth Club till his death. In recognition of his love for them, Azia youths honoured him with a merit award.
Azia General Assembly also awarded him a Silver Merit Award as a dedicated citizen.
During his lifetime, Chief Onyedi was in touch with the traditional institution in his community and participated fully in its affairs. For example, he was an important member of Igwe’s Cabinet as “Ajieukwu of Azia”, the decision-makers in the town. His other traditional title, “Onwa” which means the moon, further casts him as a harbinger of inclusiveness and brotherhood.
Indeed, Azia, Ihiala and Anambra as a state has lost a fearless hero, a towering giant, a humble and unassuming man and a peacemaker who was always ready to accept his mistakes.