From Chijioke Agwu and Wilson Okereke, Abakaliki
It was a carnival of sorts and memories are made of such moments. Men and women of timber and calibre converged on Government Field, Court Area, Okposi, in Ohaozara Local Government Area of Ebonyi State, on April 19. From far and near, they came to celebrate the life and times of a man who came, saw and conquered.
Indeed, the arena was overflowing. Some came in different uniforms. It was like a political gathering decorated with juggernauts. A whiff of perfumes rent the air.
The cultural buoyancy of Ndigbo was showcased as different groups entertained guests with the zeal of competition and zest of professionals. The spectacular performance of masquerades from Anambra State threw the audience into revelries.
However, the solemnness of the atmosphere clearly showed that it was the funeral of a departed hero in the area.
It was the funeral of the late Chief John Eze Njoku, affectionately known as Eziokwu bu ndu.
Born in 1935, Eziokwu bu ndu was a successful businessman and transporter. He died in October 2021 at 86.
He is survived by a wife, Maria Eze, 11 children, including head, South East bureau of The Sun, Nze Magnus Eze, 32 grandchildren and a host of other relations.
He was variously described as a man who lived a decent life characterised by honesty, uprightness, hard work, dedication and commitment to public good.
It was, therefore, not surprising that the high and mighty trooped to his hometown, Okposi, to honour him as they paid their last respects.
In their tributes, Ebonyi State governor, Chief David Umahi; former Senate President, Chief Anyim Pius Anyim; president-general of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Professor George Obiozor; former Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu; wife of Eze Igbo Gburugburu, Amb. Bianca Ojukwu; and the managing director/editor-in-chief of Sun Publishing Limited, Mr. Onuoha Ukeh, among others, extolled Eze Njoku as a man who lived an unblemished life worthy of emulation.
Other dignitaries at the event were former president-general of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief Gary Enwo Igariwey; member representing Ezza North/Ishielu Federal Constituency, Anayo Edwin; chairman of Ohaozara LGA, Nkechinyere Iyioku; editor, Daily Sun, Ihenanacho Nwosu; and his Sunday Sun counterpart, Chidi Nnadi, traditional ruler of Okposi Autonomous Community, Eze Dr. Cosmas Agwu (Enechi Ekuma IV of Okposi); and his colleague from Okposi Okwu, Eze Chuku Agwu (Odenigbo I), among others.
Governor Umahi noted that the deceased’s contributions to the development of Okposi community and the Old Ohaoazara will never be forgotten. He urged the entire Eze Njoku family to strive to uphold the beautiful legacies of honesty, transparency and morality, which their patriarch was known for.
“Your late father shall be remembered for his contributions in the development of Okposi community and his legendary business skills that stood him out as a consummate entrepreneur. I urge you, therefore, to find solace in the wonderful accomplishments of his life and times,” the governor said.
Former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Anyim, said Eze Njoku was a prominent stakeholder in Okposi who proved his mettle as a community leader and a businessman, adding that “his legacy of love and service to humanity will be greatly missed.”
Similarly, Ekweremadu described him as an apostle of harmonious coexistence, whose love for quality education manifested in his children, adding that: “There is no doubt that the page of history will be kind to him.”
On his part, Obiozor said death was an inevitable reality for all mortals, however, the memories of the deceased will always bear the imprints of a worthy soldier who came and conquered.
“The sobriquet, Eziokwu bu ndu, symbolises that he was a moral virtuoso whose character was annotated with sterling virtues,” he said.
The PG, who was represented by Ebonyi State chapter president of Ohanaeze, Dr. Peter Mbam, urged Ndigbo, particularly elders, to be exemplary in whatever they do.
For Amb. Bianca Ojukwu, he lived a good life characterised by the uncommon virtues of humility, honesty and contentment.
She urged the family to be consoled by the fact that their patriarch fought the good fight: “He has finished his race; he kept his faith. Surely, the crown of righteousness awaits him.”
In a biography presented by the first son of the deceased, Chukwuemeka Eze, who is the chairman, Tax Appeal Tribunal (South East), he described his father as a man who lived an upright and honest life and did everything within his power to inculcate those habits in his children and ensured they acquired the best of education available.
Chukwuemeka said: “The truth is that Panyi made a fortune as a young man in business. So, by the early ’60s when the young John Eze Njoku was already having signs of success in his business, he got married to his first wife, our beloved mother, Mrs. Grace Eze (May her gentle soul rest in peace), bought land and built a house that became a landmark for many years at Court Area Okposi (the white house he christened Eziokwu bu ndu Lodge) and also bought his first car. We learnt that it was based on the foregoing that he was then called Aku Ruo Uno of Okposi. He was one of the few persons who owned ‘commercial pleasure cars’ within the 10 legacy communities of Old Ohaozara. His Eziokwu bu ndu Transport ferried people of the area especially traders. But all these went with the War. But immediately after the war, he went back to Abakaliki and managed to pick the pieces of his life.”
Magnus Eze, who is the second son of the deceased, said his father was a man of uncommon character who lived an impeccable life and inculcated the virtues of honesty and excellence in his children.
He said that his father lived a fulfilled life in the sense that he trained his children well and watched all of them become leading lights in various fields of endeavor.
“Each of us is doing well in various fields of life which shows that at 86, my father was fulfilled. It is on this note that we tried to give him a modest funeral because he deserved it. Additionally, he left a good name behind which can be evidenced by the mammoth crowd and the calibre of persons who graced the event.
“On our part, we also felt accomplished by giving our father what he had wished. He lived for honesty and hard work. He was as well an epitome of truth just as the name Eziokwu bu ndu implies.
“I can recall that in the message which my father gave to me nine days before his demise, he emphasized that we must not forget his good name and secondly, we should allow love reign in our family. So, in our effort to maintain the legacy, we would continue to inculcate the virtue in his 32 grandchildren,” he stated.
He promised their late father, on behalf of the family that his wonderful legacies will be upheld, maintained and transferred to all his descendants.
Another bereaved son, Dr Lazarus Eze, said that he was proud of his father’s life style through which the man before his demise was able to train his 11 children to value integrity above other things.
Lazarus said: “How I wish that my father could live longer than this period but not minding, I thank God that we are the ones giving him the last respect instead of the other way round. My father before his demise was not only bearing Eziokwu Bu Ndu as a name but he also displayed truthfulness in all his dealings.
“In a nutshell, honesty is part of the legacy which he left behind and many more, he was not a lazy type because even at the age of 80s, he was still doing some businesses, he was once the Treasurer of the local branch of the National Union of Road Transport Workers principally because of his honesty until he voluntarily relinquished the position after 16 years. I believe that honesty is part of his legacies which we, the children must sustain.”
A community leader in Mgbom N’Achara, Chief John Onwe Johnson (Joscotech), urged everyone to live life worthy of emulation as the deceased and also prayed God to grant eternal rest to the departed soul.