From Geoffrey Anyanwu, Awka
The quiet and developing town of Oraifite, in Ekwusigo Local Government Area of Anambra State on Friday, February 24, 2017 realised how big and important it has become, when it welcomed an unprecedented crowd of personalities from Africa and beyond to the burial of one of its illustrious sons, Pa Sir Godfrey Egbuniwe Okwuosa, at Ezematu family of Umunzalu kindred, Umueshi Irefi Oraifite.
Indeed, the number of personalities present to commiserate with the family and pay their last respects to the departed nonagenarian made nonsense of the protocol list, as the combined team of protocol officers could not get anywhere near the dignitary list. Even the St. Jude’s Anglican Church said to have been pioneered by the Pa Okwuosa’s missionary father, the late Mr. Alfred Onwukwwe Okwuosa 107 years ago, with its large capacity, could not accommodate the crowd that stormed Oraifite for the burial.
The Okwuosas, Sir Engr. Emeka Okwuosa of Oilserv Limited and his two elder brothers, Chino and Azuka and one younger brother and clergyman, Dubem, were, indeed, dumbfounded with what they saw, as it was like the entire country was emptied into the small landscape of Oraifite. But reason for this is not far fetched, as one of the Anglican Hymns, “Fading away like the stars of the morning,” sang in the service, provided the answer where it says: “Losing their light in the glorious sun. Thus would we pass from the earth and its toiling, only remembered by what we have done.”
Pa Okwuosa, described by many as a man of peace, God fearing, humble, generous, disciplined and an iroko tree, indeed, possessed the quality that could attract such crowd. Pa Okwuosa, in character and relationship with others, touched lives and, most importantly, for brought up four outstanding men in the society, who are currently touching lives in the oil and gas industry, and other spheres of life within and outside the shores of Nigeria.
Among the dignitaries, at the funeral service at Saint Jude’s Anglican Church, Nkwo-Edo, Oraifite, were the former President of Benin Republic, Dr. Boni Yayi and the Anambra State Governor, Chief Willie Obianao, former governors of Anambra state, Mr. Peter Obi and Dame Virgy Etiaba; Senator Andy Uba, Sen Chief Ben Obi, Prince Arthur Eze, Senator Annie Okonkwo, Ambassador Bianca Ojukwu, Nigerian Ambassador to Chad, Alhaji Mohammed Muntari Dauda; former Inspector General of Police, Ogbonna Onovo; former Deputy Governor of Anambra State, Engr. Emeka Sibeudu; Dr. Godwin Ezeemo, former National Chairman of Labour Party, Chief Dan Nwanyanwu and the monarch of Nnewi, Igwe Kenneth Orizu.
Over 25 distinguished personalities were in the delegation sent by the Presidents of some countries in the world, including Uganda, Togo, Ghana, United Kingdom, Spain and Canada.
Lt. Gen. Charles Angina led a six-man delegation from Uganda’s President, Mr. Yoweri Museveni, to the event, while the delegation from President Faure Gnassingbe of Togo was led by Miss Alapheni.
Also at the service were captains of industries, especially the oil and gas industry, like the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Oando and his deputy, representatives of Elton, NNPC, and Minister of State for Petroleum.
The Archbishop of Enugu Province and Bishop of Enugu Diocese, His Grace, Most Rev. Emmanuel Chukwuma, led other bishops, Rt. Rev. Prof. Godwin Okpala of Nnewi Diocese, Rt. Rev. Samuel Ezeofor of Ogbaru Diocese, Most Rev. Maxwell Anikwenwa (retd) and Rt. Rev. Godson Echefu (retd) and numerous clergymen in the funeral service.
In his sermon at the service entitled, “Heaven is our hope,” Archbishop Chukwuman described the late Pa Okwuosa as a great disciplinarian and a generous man who was contented with what he had and showed love to all around him.
He lamented the selfishness of the political class in Nigeria, which, according to him, led to the rot in the nation and charged political office holders to use their offices to better the lives of the poor masses.
He commended the children for taking good care of their father while he was alive and urged them to emulate his legacies.
Chukwuma called on those in position of authority to know that they were holding such positions in trust for God and would give account how they utilised the powers, adding that the world was not the home for those who believe in God, saying: “Heaven is the expected home. If you are not prepared for the prepared place you will go to hell.”
Also in his condolence message, the Archbishop had written among other things, “Amalunweze, you were without a doubt the greatest man we have ever known. You taught your children how to tell the truth, to respect elders, to forgive, love and fear God and also to be compassionate to everyone. You are, indeed, a generous man of immeasurable values and sterling qualities. The strong moral values you inculcated into your children has taken them to a strategic and enviable height in the society.”
Governor Obiano, who was the first to speak in the service, described Pa Okwuosa as a distinguished philanthropist who served his God faithfully and humanity dutifully and urged his children who he described as his friends to emulate the good virtues of their father.
In his condolence message addressed to Engr. Emeka Okwuosa, the Governor said: “Amalunweze was a great man whose sense of generosity and community leadership was outstanding. He lived for the immutable service of men through good works.
“I extend my deep condolences to your siblings, especially my Special Adviser on Agric, Tourism, Training, Methodology and Emergency, Bar. Amechi Okwuosa, the larger Okwuosa family and all his loved ones. Our thoughts and prayers are with your families at this moment of grief.”
Enugu State Governor, Hon. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, in his condolence message, said: “We are grateful to God for the many fruitful years he spent with us and for his exemplary service and accomplishments as a teacher, soldier, businessman, community leader and devout Christian. Please accept my sincere condolences, as I urge you all to find solace in the worthy legacies he left behind.”
The President of the Constitutional Court of Togo, Justice Aboudou Assouma, in his condolence message, said: “On behalf of the judges of the Constitutional Court of Togo and in my own name, I would like to say a word before we leave to the earth and to the eternal one who has been the best of you all. Papa Godfrey Egbuniwe Okwuosa is a man of accomplished destiny. His curriculum vitae shows it because he has succeeded in raising himself to a high degree of his country, by his obstinacy and tenacity. In fact, after reading his curriculum vitae, it can be said that a few men have marked their times by their exceptional quality, like Papa Godfrey Egbuniwe Okwuosa. For my dear brother Emeka, it is a pride. It is also a collective pride and a national pride.”
For the Minister of Labour and Employment, Sen. Chris Ngige, in his condolence message, “death, no matter how long a loved one lived, is always painful. However, glory be to God that Amalunweze lived long enough to see all his children through in life. Therefore, while we mourn with you over his painful demise, let the testimony of God’s love in his long journey on earth as well as his good works comfort all he left behind.”
Leader of the Ugandan delegation, Lt. Gen. Angina, said their presence in the country, at the funeral, was because of the interest shown by one of Pa Okwuosa’s sons to invest in Uganda, adding that he came with the greetings of President Museveni and the people of Uganda and the country’s love and regards to Nigeria.
He said Emeka had already made forays into Uganda and has clearly shown interest in investing in Uganda and “so when we heard the news of the sudden passing on of our great Pa Okwuosa, we felt, in African culture and tradition that when a brother loses a beloved one, it is loss to all of us. So we came to commensurate with him and give him support.”
National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, described Pa Okwuosa as a man of remarkable achievements and a world citizen having served within and outside the country, both in the army and civilian.
He added: “Pa Okwuosa leaves behind as a final testimony of his fulfilled life, illustrious children like yourself, Engr. Emeka Okwuosa, to carry on his rich legacy.”
The widow of the late Igbo leader, Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu and former Nigerian Ambassador to Spain, Amb. Bianca Ojukwu said, “Pa Okwuosa was a very upright individual and very uncompromising in his values. He made immense contributions to his community. He rose from adversity without compromising , essentially , the tenets of decent behaviour.”
Prince Arthur Eze, who donated N10 million at the funeral service for the beautification of the church, St. Jude’s Anglican Church, said the event was an emotional one because he was close to the family. He said: “It is very emotional because I know this family very well starting from Emeka Okwuosa and through him I knew his brothers. I am very close to the family and Pa Okwuosa was a very good man and you can see that he brought up his children very well and today you see how people from everywhere and even outside Nigeria gathered to bury him.”
The former National Chairman of Labour Party, Chief Dan Nwanyanwu speaking about the event said, “The late Pa Okwuosa is the father of my classmate Emeka Okwuosa, we are classmate in Oraifite Boys and his father trained him well. Pa Okwuosa was a disciplinarian, a man of integrity, a man who believed that life is worth nothing except you give meaning to it, and you can see the impact of the training he gave to his children in Emeka. So we have come to just give him a farewell and to pray God to accept him in His kingdom.”
For the children of Pa Okwuosa, papers cannot contain what they have to say about their father, but Engr. Emeka, who spoke on their behalf at the church said: “The reason I am standing here is a testimony to the life of Pa Egbuniwe Okwuosa, our dad who raised us in a way that made us to always stick together, work together and being able to compromise and achieve good results.
“Our dad was not just a great person but also a man of integrity, a man who bequeathed on us the best, a man who gave us the purpose of time, a man who made us to understand that life is more meaningful than talking about wealth and talking about material things, that when you face and do the right things and trust in God and follow a good purpose, you will be bequeathed with the best.
“If you know the story of being in Igwe’s Council, you will understand the story of a man of principle; he was a man of principle who remained faithful to the late Igwe Ude Ubaka, his very close friend. But when the association led him not to get the best in terms of time, dedication of time in worshiping God, he told Chief Ude Ubaka, I will support you, always because I believe in what you are doing but I wish to step back from being an Ichie because it was at conflict with my church activities and my believe in God. That is why till today he was the only one who resigned purely on that bases; we learnt a lot from that and also learnt a lot by seeing the way he managed things with his siblings, the he managed things in the community. He was either a chairman of a PTA, financial secretary or treasurer of one group or the other because he was trusted. Nobody would ever, in Oraifite here, say that the late Egbuniwe Okwuosa was involved in any fraud or in any plan to cheat or dupe the community, we learnt a lot from it. This is what we need to be seeing today but unfortunately it is not so.”
Speaking further about his father, Emeka said: “When you see the entire family, as we are today, moving forward, you can see that the foundation came from him. Our dad believed that you must lay a strong foundation for you to get a good result so he believed in hard work and that he inculcated in us and that is the result of what you are seeing today.”
Pa Okwuosa’s first son, Chino, said he owed his father a lot and would remain grateful to him as he learnt a lot helping him now. He said, “Papa, you had the uncanny ability of full engagement in community service while not neglecting your family responsibilities. You taught us the need to stand up and be counted, the necessity of using every God given ability and endowment to serve the community in laudable engagements and beneficial projects.”
His second son, Azuka, who has been a former Council Chairman and a Commissioner for Works in the state, captured his father’s qualities in three cardinal points through which he influenced and left legacies to those he left behind, namely; his religious/spiritual background, initial sojourn as a teacher and military background. He disclosed that the three cardinal points formed the bedrock of the secret story of the present successes of the Okwuosa dynasty.
The last born of Pa Okwuosa, Ven. Dubem, summed up his experience with his father this way: “There were great challenges in your life, yet you weathered the storm at every stage. When I cast my mind back to my earliest memory of you, I could visibly see your resilience, patience, tolerance and understanding. You lived for others, especially your siblings and your late mother. You constantly put others before your comfort.”