Death has once again dealt a jeering, but devastating blow to the Nigerian community in the United States, particularly the Igbo community in Dallas. Thus, leaving us despairingly wondering how could it be that High Chief David Agunwa Omenukor left us untimely to be with the Lord. Undeniably, people are still sedated with the shock of the shattering news about David’s death which they, including myself, received with a great sorrow and disbelief.
Indeed, Nigerian community has lost a philanthropist with impeccable leadership, who had a knack for helping people. The untimely death of David Omenukor, a devout Christian, an unassuming and punctilious family man, has once again robbed Nigeria of a great moral leader, whose unpretentious nature, as well as his munificent characteristic had tamed those who came to know him. His towering personality, emblematic of his antecedents, always exuded the spirit of peace.
I seldom write tributes when people pass away, but failure to eulogize David Agunwa Omenukor of Umumbiri, Oparanadim in Ahiazu Mbaise L.G.A., Imo State, Nigeria, would be a dereliction of responsibility and an abject disservice to the Nigerian community in the United States, particularly the Igbo community in the Dallas metropolitan area.
Therefore, it is my onus to share with my readers the pedigree of the David I knew. Perhaps, I’m more compelled to write this tribute out of admiration for Omenukor’s rare character as evinced by his magnanimity. Still, it was with a heavy heart that I lifted my heart and fingers to begin to organize my thoughts and compose this piece on the man and his life. High Chief David Omenukor died on February 6, 2013 of natural causes.
My wife and I paid a condolence visit to the bereaved family shortly after. In an emotionally-laden voice with red eyes indicating the effects of many days of weeping, Chief/Mrs. Keyna Omenukor began to narrate the character and persona of her husband, as well as the vacuum his death has created in the family. She extolled her husband’s commitment to God, love for his family and his generosity toward mankind. With a trembling voice, and choking with words, Keyna managed to utter these words before she was overwhelmed with emotions, “Didi [as fondly called] was very funny and laughed a lot. He was loving and took care of the family,” she began.
“My husband was a very private person, who was endowed with wisdom and knowledge in many areas,” she said sobbing. “I can tell you, people didn’t know this: my husband did dishes and cooked for the family with joy,” she recalled with pride. “My husband made sure his kids were okay; he focused on ensuring that each of his children gets an adequate education, especially science education. He believed that science would help his children to fit in anytime,” Keyna shared. Although David was never scurried to do things, he was definitely a stickler for minuscule details.
A characteristic confirmed by his wife, Mrs. Keyna Omenukor, who said, “Didi was organized and he planned things to minute details before executing any project.” Because of his penchant for details and careful planning resulting in successful ventures, “many people came to him for advice,” Keyna expressed while choking in tears. “Didi was always thinking and planning about the future,” she muttered. Keyna continued to share the virtues of her husband, “My husband was principled, bold and direct. He was truthful and fair. He frowned at the oppressors of common people.
He called the oppressors little people. He reacted when he saw people being oppressed; he would rush to defend them.” Again, with a vacillating voice and reflecting on their marriage, Keyna said proudly, “Marrying Didi was the best thing ever that happened to me and we were blessed with three children.” Didi, as devout Catholic, touched many lives in positive ways not only by personal examples, but also through his active participation in numerous church and community activities. While alive, Didi was working assiduously to unite warring communities. In 2002, he approached me to ensure that I was not in a warring path with a political opponent at a point the politics in Dallas was noxious.
Thus, many people on both sides came to admire the late Omenukor for his unwavering honest character and his unremitting commitment to fairness was unparalleled and sometimes appeared threatening to some in our community who seemed to be burdened and chained by the vagaries of the present. Mr. Ngozi Echebelem, a member of Mbaise Community Association Dallas/ Fort Worth, Texas, said, “David Omenukor was a man of God who believed in putting the Almighty first in anything he did. He was a loving father and husband to his children and wife, and a pillar to his community at large.” “He was a peace-loving man who never wanted to pick a fight with anyone but will not shy away from a fight for peace. Didi was a giver who found time to help those in need,” Mr. Echebelem uttered.
According to Mrs. Omenukor, late David Omenukor worked briefly with the New Nigerian Newspapers and the News Agency of Nigeria between 1976 and 1978 before departing to Australia to study Accountancy and Management at the University of Camberra. Upon graduation, Keyna joined him and they got married on February 28, 1986. The couple moved to United States with their daughter in 1991 after a stint in London. The family settled in Garland where they ran a successful business. Omenukor was an affluent individual, especially in spirit, who never allowed earthly riches to swell his head. He was one of the very few Nigerians who never wore their worth on their sleeves. David felt that he was blessed and God was using him as a veritable instrument for uplifting others—a privilege he relished until his death. David was enterprising and generous to the Nigerian community here and at home. He gave with humility and never expected anything in return unlike those individuals who gave for aggrandizement as they resided in a deep valley of absurdity. Regardless of people’s idiosyncrasies, David was receptive to all individuals. He used his resources to uplift humanity and never thought of using them to undermine anyone. He was a modest man. One could rightfully attest, without fear of contradiction, that High Chief David Omenukor was humble, affable, and amiable. Most importantly, he was an honest man, who had a knack for helping others. He never wasted his time on unimportant things. David was a simple man, who never obfuscated his feelings or positions. He was caring, compassionate, and peace-loving; he “inspired many people to start their own business,” as many would attest. David Omenukor was involved in a lot of humanitarian activities and he gave generously to charity and to support many organizations in the US particularly in the Dallas metropolitan area. “He was an ardent supporter of Igbo, Catholic and Mbaise communities in DFW and was a strong contributor to the Catholics of Ahiara Mbaise diocese in USA,” Omenukor’s family narrated. During his brief 58 years of life, Omenukor served humanity. David’s soothing and refulgent mien diminishes his intimidating and towering personality. People could relate to him more easily despite his reclusive or private demeanor. Thus, High Chief David Omenukor was honored a few years ago by the Nigerian community under the auspices of Organization of Nigerian Nationals (ONN). Also, in 2010 he was honored as an enterprising businessman by the Igbo Community Association (ICAN). Though the quiet lion is gone, but his legacies which he etched so deeply on the commitment to community service anchored with strings of honesty and unabashed genuineness will forever echo loudly in the Nigerian community in Dallas. More importantly, the greatest tribute we can pay to him will be for us to ensure that the life David Omenukor epitomized, the ideals he profusely professed, lives on. As we join his wife, Mrs. Keyna Omenukor and children, Udoka Ezichi, Obika, and Chester Chidi Omenukor to mourn his untimely departure and celebrate his good life, may we never forget to reflect on our own lives for a better self-eulogy. Adieu, dear David. Adieu!