“Chief Iwuanyanwu is a giant in many respects; sports, business, publishing, agriculture, engineering and philanthropy. Above all, a patriot, and a nationalist of no mean order. His insatiable drive for success has propelled him across several frontiers and made him a shining demonstration of what can be achieved when hard work, perseverance, grit and intelligence are applied to seemingly insoluble problems.”
– General Olusegun Obasanjo, former President and Commander-in-Chief, Federal Republic of Nigeria
Recently, Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu was on the PDP campaign trail with the late VP Ekwueme at Ihiala, where the latter collapsed after addressing the crowd. I had suggested to the Chief to abandon the rally and go home. Any politician seeking his support, considering his status and age, should find his way to Atta.
With Ekwueme dead and the Chief celebrating his 75th birthday, I owe it to the Chief, his family and all his countless beneficiaries who were present at the Abuja venue of the celebration to revisit the trauma the Nigerian embassy and the Nigerian people passed through in Washington two years ago when the Chief went through his own harrowing times in Gethsemane.
As the Washington DC correspondent of the Vanguard, I was at the Nigerian embassy to ascertain the true situation of Chief Iwuanyanwu’s Ahaejiaganmba state of health. The secretary at the Nigerian embassy was shaken and her trembling hands betrayed her trepidations. The Ambassador had directed her to attend to me after I had intimated him on the state of health of a top Nigerian politician who had just been discharged from the John Hopkins hospital. She was directed to post an immediate call to Chief Iwuanyanwu’s residence and immediately organise logistics for the comfort of the ailing Chief.
The torment on her face was explicable. From Virginia to Washington DC, the base of the John Hopkins hospital, to Maryland the home state of many Nigerians in the US, the street talk had been loud. Iwuanyanwu, business mogul, publisher, politician, and philanthropist had passed on. Interest in the story increased when I called Owerri. Our sources in Owerri, for the best part, believed that the Chief was gone, while the few authoritative sources revealed that he was somewhere in a US hospital in Washington DC. We combed the DC hospitals and did not bother about John Hopkins until we exhausted our search. John Hopkins is to the US what Hammersmith is to the United Kingdom. According to the chairman, Africa Center for Health and Security, George Washington Hospital, Dr. C.C. Akuwe, “patients who go to John Hopkins are invariably assured of the best medical care and they will benefit from newest advances in medicine and medical therapy.”
John Hopkins, as it is usual with many hospitals here, will not divulge much information on account of the state or the whereabouts of the Chief. However, I sought the help of specialist Nigerian doctors who had confidential information on the Chief’s medical history and nature of ailment. Those hospital sources confirmed that Chief Iwuanyanwu was admitted to the hospital two months earlier and had been discharged after a knee replacement surgery. They would not make available his residential address and his phone numbers. While I was posting another call to the same credible Imo source, a call came from Tennessee informing me that Iwuanyanwu would be glad to speak with me. Below are the excerpts of the exclusive interview conducted in his residence at Parkville, Maryland.
OKOCHA: Sir you must have heard it ….
Chief Iwuanyanwu: Oh yes, my people are calling, and I have the information that some people are peddling the false rumors that I’m dead…. but as you can see I’m very much alive and I thank God for his mercies.
OKOCHA: You are not bitter over the abominable act … Like the case of Zik, people are writing your obituary when you are still alive?
Chief Iwuanyanwu: I cannot be bitter after my experiences at the surgery, which could have been worse than this good result. I will always be thankful for my life for all the gifts and the fulfillment that has come my way since my birth. I have lived a good life and I have been blessed. I have contributed my quota to national development and uplifted the down-trodden. In my life odyssey, sometimes a few detractors have tried to paint me a devil, disparaged my legacies but, like Zik, I surmounted all the obstacles and, just as you can see, I’m still standing.
OKOCHA: Zik was so embarrassed and had to curse his fast obituary writers and you are not offended by these antics?
Chief Iwuanyanwu: Worst propaganda has been unleashed against me and my politics but, as you can testify, I do not have the gift of the garb like Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe. I’m a trained engineer that was drawn into politics after I built my business. I have, therefore, developed the tendency to ignore dirt thrown my way. But after the last experience and the agony my family and thousands of supporters have gone through, it will be proper from now to always challenge the mud slingers, correct the facts, before the people are led into falsehood. In that vein, I want to make it clear that I was here in Washington DC, John Hopkins hospital for an operation to replace my knee and I’m recovering so fast that the doctors are surprised by my speed of recovery.
OKOCHA: As a chieftain of the PDP, why is your party reluctant to employ the abundant diaspora resources to bring succour to Nigerians, especially in medicare and power distribution?
Chief Iwuanyanwu: I have for so many years on my own elected ministers who have gone to Abuja with agreed understanding that most of the diaspora resources would be utilised as a way of transferring technology and bringing our people home. Those ministers have disappointed the nation and gone there and carried out their own agenda. As I have told you, my experience as a patient in one of the greatest hospitals in the world is sobering.
OKOCHA: Sir, but you can see one of those engineers that you read about in the Ohio newspaper is a Nigerian. He is in charge of the power system for a county in that state. Why doesn’t the Federal Government decentralise the Nigerian power system and allow the states generate and distribute their own power?
Chief Iwuanyanwu: Please, go and work out a paper on this proposal with our people who have already succeeded in performing for America.
Happy birthday Emmanuel! May the good tides of the Yuletide bring to you, your family and mankind abiding love and kindness, for that is the raison d’état, why Emmanuel was born to his Bethlehem virgin mother.
Once the paper is ready, give it to me and I shall hand the proposals to his Excellency the President.
In spite of his incomparable philanthropist, this giant Nazarene always celebrated away but despised at home, would continue to win our respect and our gratitude. Think about it, Abiola, Igbinedion, Sunny Odogwu, Ibru, Arthur Eze, Richard Akinjide, eventually history will chronicle it on the pages of our time: as his golden mouthed fellow barons singled out and lavished fortune on their families and on their own, Ahaejiaganmba spent his life uplifting the down trodden. Look at his battalion of protégé business, professional and political scions.
Happy birthday Emmanuel! May the good tides of the Yuletide bring to you, your family and mankind abiding love and kindness for that is the raison d’état, why Emmanuel was born to his Bethlehem virgin mother.