By Ingram Osigwe
When I received a WhatsApp message from Chief Ven Onwughalu (Ugochukwu Tubelu Abagana, Obata Obie Osumenyi) conveying an invitation to accompany him to Abagana on a condolence visit to his in-laws having lost his brother in law to the cold hand of death, I could not immediately figure out or place familiarity or a face on who had died.
Though the message identified the deceased as Emeka Nwankwu (Onwa Abagana 11), I was still lost in the maze of confusion. The Nwankwu family is a large, vibrant, progressive and successful one. So who could this Emeka be?
I didn’t waste time in doing quick WhatsApp replies to Obata Obie, firing salvos of questions to clear some doubts.
I was aware that the patriarch of the Nwankwus, the irrepressible late sir Joe Nwankwu, one of the movers and shakers of the Onitsha business cycle, a shrewd businessman and an industrialist of repute has since joined the saints. So could this Emeka be his son and a brother to Clem?
I know Nnaebue; is Nnabebue, therefore, the same person as Emeka and Clem’s brother too? These were the myriad of thoughts and questions that ran riot in my mind while I awaited Ven’s reply.
Ven’s reply was swift and somewhat monosyllabic: “Yes, Nnaebue is Emeka. He is dead”!
Momentarily, I was in self-denial. No, Emeka is not dead, I assured myself. Not when he was on the verge of reviving his father’s industries. Emeka cannot die, he is not dead. A mistaken identity must have occurred, I found myself screaming, to no one in particular.
To further re-assure myself that the idea of Emeka dying was a fleeting dream that would soon evaporate, I read Ven’s invitation all over again. It was at that moment it indeed dawned on me that Chukwemeka Joseph Nwankwu (Onwa Abagana 11) was indeed gone!
I stared vacuously but anxiously into the ceiling of my office, lost in thought. Then a gush of emotion nestled down as tears cascaded my cheeks. And as if in sympathy, the air conditioner hissed to an abrupt stop.
Emeka’s demise quakes hearts. It brings tears to the eyes. It is difficult to speak about Emeka in the past tense for many, including my humble self, I’m still struggling to come to terms with his death.
Here was a man who has no boundary. Here was a man who never discriminated. He was at home with both young and old, rich and poor.
Like his legendary father, Emeka carried with him that pan- Nigerian traits, that philanthropist spirit. Ethno- religious and cultural differences meant nothing to him. He opened his doors wide for all. He paid hospital bills of the downtrodden, he paid school fees of the less privileged. He threw gates of his factory-wide open for those lacking portable water to fetch.
With his charisma and trademark broad smile, Emeka spread love everywhere he went
His love for God and the church was deep and penetrating. Emeka’s strict Catholic upbringing did not allow him the luxury of lukewarmness. He was a devout Catholic. He worked for the Church. He worked for God.
Whether at his Lagos parish, Catholic Church of Divine Mercy, Lekki or his home parish, St. Francis Abagana, Emeka left giant but indelible imprints of selfless service.
He was instrumental to many infrastructural projects now sitting in both parishes.
Indeed, as a knight of St. Mulumba, Emeka worked for God and humanity. His was a life of giving without asking for anything in return, a life lived in total surrender to God.
As he served God, Emeka also served society. The impeccable qualities he possessed did not escape the attention of the then governor of Anambra State, Mr. Peter Obi who, during his tenure as governor, fished him out and gave him the very important Ministry of Public Utilities, Water Resources, and Community Development to the superintendent as Commissioner.
As Commissioner, Emeka discharged his duties meritoriously, diligently and creditably to the admiration of his boss, Governor Obi, and his cabinet.
It was indeed an outpouring of emotions on Thursday, February 6th, 2020, during the service of songs in Emeka’s honour at the Catholic Church of Divine Mercy, Lekki, Lagos.
Emotions ran high- many teary eyes, occasional shaking of heads in agony and intermittent tapping of legs on the floor in grieve as one speaker after another spoke glowingly of Emeka.
Obi himself, some of his commissioners and Emeka’s in-laws who were present at service of songs paid glowing tributes. They testified to the calmness of spirit, goodness of heart, large-heartedness, hardwork, dedication to duty, integrity and forthrightness which the late Emeka personified.
Clearly, Emeka’s untimely demise has robbed his beautiful wife of a loving husband and their kids, a dotting and caring father. His death has painfully robbed the Nwankwus of an upright and forthright brother, and Abagana a broad-minded, liberal and unassuming philanthropist.
In Emeka Nwankwu’s death, Anambra has lost an illustrious son, one of the most patriotic, one of its finest public servants.
Emeka Nwankwu’s transition robs the Catholic Church one of its dedicated and devout faithful, a tireless but silent worker in His vineyard.
Meanwhile, we cannot question God. Emeka’s demise broke our hearts. His departure makes us cry. Emeka’s sleep, so long, so deep, so peaceful, makes us grieve. We are mourning. We are in pains. We are sorrowful. But in all of these, as Christians, we give glory to God for the beautiful, salutary and exemplary life Emeka lived. That is our consolation.
Hon. Chief (Sir) Chukwuemeka Joseph Nwankwu (Onwa Abagana 11), fare ye well. Sleep on. Good night.
– Ingram Osigwe is the MD/CEO, Fullpage Communications Ltd, Lagos.