Category Archives: City Guide

Discover Enugu City Nigeria is your online guide to Enugu local attractions, events and shows, dining out, arts and theatre, and a city directory of businesses groups and people who live in the City of Enugu, Nigeria

As Onyeka attains biblical 70

The elegant stallion, Onyeka Onwenu, attains the biblical age of 70. Columnist Chido Nwakanma pays a fitting tribute to a Nigerian media, arts and entertainment icon.

Congratulations to Onyeka Onwenu on attaining the Biblical three score and ten.

More than congratulations, however, I write to thank Onyeka Onwenu for happening in our lifetime. It has been 42 years since Onyeka Onwenu burst into our lives on vinyl and tube.

Happy birthday, Her Father’s Daughter

She is the investigative reporter at the Nigerian Television Authority that reported on “A Squandering of Riches”. It traced the paths of the wastage of Nigeria’s resources in the oil fields and boardrooms. The squandering of our riches is still the story.

Onyeka Onwenu, daughter of Nigeria and Igboland, has played excellently on the Nigerian media, arts, and entertainment stages. She has been an advocate for women’s rights and served in politics and government.

She lit up Nollywood with excellent performances in various roles and films. She valiantly lost to patriarchy and dirt as she sought grassroots political office.

One of the most poignant memories I have of Onyeka Onwenu happened in 1987. I was the young Regional Correspondent for THISWEEK magazine in Port Harcourt. Onyeka the performer dazzled at the Civic Centre. Then she performed her all-time best “One Love”.

The hall bubbled and bubbled. People left their seats. It was standing room only.

I still feel the energy and love in that hall.

All of us on social media are celebrating her ahead of her actual birth date.

Understandably.

Onyeka Onwenu was born on 31 January 1952. She is a singer/songwriter, actress, human rights activist, social activist, journalist, politician, and former X Factor series judge.

The elegant stallion

The Nigerian press used the oxymoron Elegant Stallion to describe her. It resonated because of her attributes of strength, elegance and seeming male qualities.

Onyeka served as chair of the Imo State Council for Arts and Culture and from 2013 as Executive Director/CEO of the National Centre for Women Development.

As an employee of the NTA, Onwenu made an impact as a newsreader and reporter. In 1984, she wrote and presented the internationally acclaimed BBC/NTA documentary Nigeria, A Squandering of Riches which became the definitive film about corruption in Nigeria as well as the intractable Niger Delta agitation for resource control and campaign against environmental degradation in the oil rich region of Nigeria.

Born a broadcaster

A former member on the board of the NTA, she has also worked as a TV presenter, hosting the shows Contact (1988) and Who’s On? (1993) both on NTA Network, her Wikipedia entry notes.

Onyeka graduated BA in International Relations and Communication from the Ivy-League Wellesley College, Massachusetts, and obtained an MA in Media Studies from The New School for Social Research, New York. She worked for the United Nations as a tour guide before returning to Nigeria in 1980 to complete her mandatory one-year national service with the NTA.

Nigerians know her mostly for music. Her contributions are outstanding.

Hear Wikipedia, again: “Originally a secular artist, Onwenu made the transition to gospel music in the 90s, and most of her songs are self-penned. She continues to write and sing about issues such as health (HIV/AIDS), peace and mutual coexistence, respect for women rights, and the plight of children. She began her music career in 1981 while still working with the NTA, releasing the album For the Love of You, a pop album that featured an orchestral cover of Johnny Nash’s “Hold Me Tight”, and her second album Endless Life was produced by Sonny Okosun. Both records were released on the EMI label.

Onwenu’s first album with Polygram, In The Morning Light, was released in 1984. Recorded in London, it featured the track “Masterplan” written by close friend Tyna Onwudiwe who had previously contributed to Onwenu’s BBC documentary and subsequently sang back-up vocals on the album. After her fourth release, 1986’s One Love which contained an updated version of the song “(In the) Morning Light, Onwenu collaborated with veteran jùjú artist Sunny Ade on the track “Madawolohun (Let Them Say)” which appeared in 1988’s Dancing In The Sun. This was the first of three songs the pair worked on together; the other two – “Choices” and “Wait For Me” – centred on family planning, and were endorsed by the Planned Parenthood Federation of Nigeria who used “Choices” in their PSA.

… with King Sunny Ade on duets

Onwenu’s final release on Polygram was dedicated to Winnie Mandela, the subject of a song of the same name which Onwenu performed live when Nelson Mandela and his wife visited Nigeria in 1990 following his release from prison.

Onwenu diverted to Benson and Hedges Music in 1992 and released the self-titled Onyeka!, her only album with the label, after which she made the transition to Christian/gospel music. Her latest collection, “Inspiration for Change,” focused on the need for an attitudinal change in Nigeria.

She is in partnership with Paris-based La Cave Musik, headed by a Nigerian cultural entrepreneur, Onyeka Nwelue and a UK-based Jungle Entertainment Ventures, headed by musicologist David Evans-Uhegbu. La Cave Musik is set to release her collection titled “Rebirth of a Legend”. In recognition of her contribution to music and arts in Nigeria, she has been celebrated by professionals like Mahmood Ali-Balogun, Laolu Akins, Charles O’Tudor, and former PMAN president Tony Okoroji among others in the arts industry in Nigeria.

as Onyeka attains biblical 70
Performing with Phyno

In 2013, Onwenu served as one of the three judges on X Factor Nigeria.”

As Onyeka attains the biblical age of 70, she owes no one, neither Ekwe nor any other.

A Nollywood Personality

..with Chiwetel

She is also a Nollywood personality. Note that a personality has passed the level of a star! “Onwenu’s first movie role was as Joke, a childless woman who adopts an abandoned baby in Zik Zulu Okafor’s Nightmare. She has since featured in numerous Nollywood movies, and in 2006 she won the African Movie Academy Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role for her performance in the movie “Widow’s Cot”. Then she was also nominated that same year for African Movie Academy Award for “Best Actress in a Leading Role” in the movie “Rising Moon”. She was in the movie Half of a Yellow Sun with Chiwetel Ejiofor and Thandiwe Newton, and Lion Heart (2018).”

as Onyeka attains biblical 70
…with Zack Orji and other Nollywood people

A rich and variegated oeuvre

as Onyeka attains biblical 70

As Onyeka attains a biblical 70, we can look back at her musical corpus which is rich and variegated.

Which Onyeka Onwenu song touched you the most? Which one moves you even now? “You and 1” was the entry song for my wedding reception. I loved it that much.

Then there is Ekwe. My friend Chukwuma Nwokoh loved its insouciance yet calmness in our undergraduate days. Chukwuma says now: “My favourite Onyeka song is “You and I”. Ekwe is next. Loved and infatuated on her the first time I saw her picture because of her low cut then.”

I also consider “Bia Nulu” evergreen. Bia Nulu marked her passage into gospel music. Do you remember “Iyogogo” that reminds of village life? Or her praise song to mothers, “Ochie Dike”? Her collabo with Phyno on Ochie Dike refreshed it and made it contemporary.

Friend, which Onyeka Onwenu song or performance is your favourite? It is her 70th, so tell her.

Thank you for Onyeka Onwenu in our lifetime.

Happy Birthday, Ada Nnaya, Ada Igbo, Ada Nigeria. HBD onyeoma.

as-onyeka-attains-biblical-age of 70

The Son of the House deserves a sequel

Chido Nwakanma in a positive review of The Son of the House highlights its unending appeal and calls for a sequel. The Book won the 2020 NLNG Literature Prize.

BOOK REVIEW

  • Book: The Son of the House
  • Author: Cheluchi Onyemelukwe-Onuobia
  • Publisher: Penguin, 2019
  • Reviewer: Chido Nwakanma

At the end of this novel, the cliffhanger of many interesting turns elicited from me a desire for more. It is just as well that The Son Of The House is so riveting and dramatic that it will make the screen. Fittingly so, our Nollywood loves sequels, and films come as Part One to Three.

The sort of sequel for this book would be a first-person narrative about the son. Afam Obiechina was the backdrop in this enthralling novel that I consider Part One. I fantasise we should subsequently hear Afam’s account of his growing up and his life up to this point. It would be akin to the story of Obi Okonkwo in No Longer At Ease, a self-contained sequel to the eponymous Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe.

I go ahead of myself, though, as Cheluchi Onyemelukwe-Onuobia triggers the imagination. Her book raises many questions.

The principal one for the interested reader is what is it about this work that has gripped the world and made it a first-class offering like its writer earned in school?

The short answer is that The Son of the House offers a deft exploration of sensitive universal issues that tug at the hearts of citizens and societies. They include the innocence of teen romance versus betrayal, class distinctions, childlessness and loss of a child.

The longer is the pre-eminence of the male child in specific socio-cultural settings such as South-East Nigeria, the stage for the book, and the place of women in a patriarchal society.

The blurb of this version offers a good summary, with slight editing.
“Julie and Nwabulu, two abducted women, decide to tell each other their stories to ‘pass the time’ while awaiting their loved ones to ransom them. Both women find in telling their stories that their lives intersect at significant junctions. Nwabulu, the one-time housemaid and now a successful fashion designer, finds that Julie has answers to the one ache she has carried in her heart since her late teens. Julie, a septuagenarian who has lived a life of subterfuges, each one bigger than the last, finds that she must now confront her biggest lies”. The Son of the House runs on two tracks of the stories of these women. The writer takes the reader through a wide range of human emotions.

The Son of the House is set in Enugu and covers 1972 to 2011. The author captures with high fidelity the physical and social setting of the city on the hill and the former capital of Eastern Nigeria. Her account shows sensitivity to details.

One of the appeals of The Son of the House is how it treats sociological issues around cultural practices and beliefs without liberal condescension, heckling or sermonising. The author describes and allows the reader the latitude to draw her inferences and judgements.

It brings to bear current realities such as kidnapping, youth unemployment, and politicians’ character. There are also the place and role of women in a patriarchal society. Julie schemed her way into the kidnap and pushed for the disclosures that caused her stroke. Unravelling what happened thereafter is where Afam’s story begins. Julie should be alive to connect the dots.

Cheluchi Onyemelukwe-Onuobia reminds me of the griots of old who weave compelling narratives that taught lessons and values. The authorial voice in this book is subtle. The language is polished, English yet very familiar and Nigerian.

The Son of The House deserves all the accolades for the writer. Awards and recognitions include the 2020 SprinNG Women Authors Prize, the 2019 Sharjah International Book Fair prize, Winner of the $100000 2021 Nigeria Prize for Literature. CBC Radio Canada listed it in the 35 Canadian books to check out in summer 2021. Channels Television Nigeria named it in The Top Nigerian Books of 2019. It earned a shortlist for the 2021 Giller Prize.

The Son of the House kept me company from 30 November through 5 December in Freetown, Sierra Leone, during the stress caused by an airline cancelling the Freetown-Lagos flight with neither reason nor compensation.

Grab a copy to read. I highly recommend it.

Christmas in the East

Christmas in the East is a kaleidoscope of events and celebrations by those who traveled for the December homecoming ritual.

Anambra Airport – too early to celebrate but…

Christmas in the East

Fred Chukwuelobe

Fred, a celebrated journalist and communication expert, is the Chief Operating Officer of Pointsize Communications Ltd.


Anambra State International Cargo and Passenger Airport and hype…

The analysis looks sweet and tempting. 142 flights and over 3,000 passengers in one month!

Folks are celebrating and pointing to the viability of the Airport, which former Aviation Minister, Osita Chidoka, had warned was not possible.

I pray it becomes viable. I do because I have used it twice and it took me only 45 minutes to and fro my village.

It is a massive Airport. It is beautiful. It has hope. Let’s keep hope alive.

But if you’re quick at celebrating, please note that the period under review was a festive one. Many people traveled.

Again, only two airlines – Airpeace and United – currently service the Lagos – Anambra, Anambra – Abuja, Abuja – Anambra and Anambra – Lagos routes.

Also, the aircraft being used are the 50-passanger capacity Embraer ERJ ones plus the private jets which passenger capacity is even lesser. These are easy to fill and average 30 passengers per day.

The viability of the Airport will become clearer in months to come, that is, January to March before the Easter return, September to November before the Christmas holidays, and when bigger planes begin to fly the route.

I am excited at the prospects of the viability of the airport. I want it to succeed because I can avoid the Niger Bridge traffic gridlock or the Oji River – Amansea one if you use the Asaba and Enugu airports respectively.

Today was hellish. Many people using the Asaba International Airport missed their flights ✈ because Niger Bridge blocked completely, spreading up to Upper Iweka in Onitsha.

You can therefore see why Anambra State Airport must be viable and must succeed.

Before then, all those boasting that Anambra people dominate the airports in Owerri, Asaba and Enugu should calm down. Those thumping their chests that we are the ‘biggest patrons’ of the three airports of Enugu, Asaba and Owerri should hold their horses. It is too early in the day to say so.

Boisterousness. That’s what they are engaging in. ‘Itu onu’. ‘Ime nkpotu‘. (Grandstanding and boastful).

The taste of the pudding is in the eating.

Glad to be back. Thank God for journey mercies.

Happy New Year, folks.


Celebrating an education initiative

By Peter Eneonwo

Ihe Development Initiative (IDI) traditionally holds an annual convention every 29 December to put smiles on the faces of students and graduates.

The 2021 Convention was held at the Central School, Ihe, in Awgu LGA of Enugu State.

Those who smiled home from the event included nine indigenes who each received N300,000 (three hundred thousand naira) to pursue master’s programme in different universities in Nigeria.

Furthermore, cash prizes were awarded to students and pupils of Community Secondary School, Ihe and the four public primary schools.

Additionally, a set of percussion instruments (school band) was donated to the Holy Child Schools, also in the community.

Sen Ekweremadu (with Mic) flanked by Okechukwu (left) and Amadi (right) as he gave an acceptance speech.

IDI honoured five persons adjudged to be champions of human empowerment. These were representatives of Enugu West as well as Aninri/Awgu/Oji River constituencies in the National Assembly, Sen. Ike Ekweremadu and Rep. Toby Okechukwu. The recipients were accompanied to the event by Chief Dennis Oguerinwa Amadi who represents Udi/Eziagu constituency also in the National Assembly.

Back home, three sons of the soil – Air Cdre John Ozoemena (Ret.), Chief Godwin Okolo, and Chief Ugochukwu Udeh, also received similar IDI Human Empowerment Ambassador Awards.

Another highlight of the event was a lecture on secirity delivered by an Ihe Diasporan, Mr. Isaac Ike. It was moderated by cerebral Catholic Priest, Rev. Fr. Emeka Udeonu.

IDI is almost an age group organisation of Ihe people who were born in the seventies. Today, its membership cuts across servicemen, entrepreneurs, academics and bureacrats.

The organisatio has thus far awarded 34 master’s degree scholarships and given cash prizes to pupils and students of the public schools in the community every year.

The range of IDI philanthropyis is quite elastic. At one point, it partially funded a Chinese language programme to enable an indigene pursuing a bachelor degree in the Chinese language in China. IDI has also donated sets of percussion instruments to five primary schools, in addition to the annual awards of cash prizes to secondary and primary school students and pupils.

The prizes and scholarships are sponsored by wealthy members of the Community either in their names or in remembrance of their loved ones.

IDI has also announced that it is funding an ongoing documentation of the history of the Community.

The 2021 Convention was was well attended by Ihe people as well as guests from other communities. Guests were warmly welcomed by Igwe Martin Ibeziakor, the traditional ruler of Enuguoke Ihe Autonomous Community.


My kids in village mode

Uchenna Onwuamaegbu Ugwu

Onwuamaegbu-Ugwu, is an award-winning advocate of STEM Education for Young Girls. She is the founder of Edufun Technik, a social enterprise focused on STEM education for kids in underserved communities.


Words can’t explain how this Christmas in the village felt for me and the kids.

From the beautiful harmattan to the kids enjoying the village lifestyle and learning new survival skills.

The first night we arrived I was so tired to do anything when Usonwanne asked that I help her make the fire to boil water for her night bath.

I told her to ask grandma to help and I slept off.

When I woke up in the morning and asked her how she was able to make the fire, she said, ” mum I don’t want to ask grandma, so I tried it out by putting the firewood together, using a piece of the carton with nylon to start the fire with matches and quickly placed it under the firewood. I tried it 3 times before the light finally came up”

I was so happy to hear how she survived ?.

From learning how to draw water from the well, and how palm oil is processed, to going into the farm with mama to get fresh scent leaf, ugu, bitter leaf or tomatoes was an experience they won’t forget quickly.

The younger ones even suggested they resume school in the village ?.

For me, it was more than fun.

I will write my epistle soon.

I hope you enjoyed your holiday?

What happened??


Father Raymond Arazu: Up close and personal

In this interview, media veteran Chuks Emma Ilozue moved up close and personal with the esteemed Reverend Father Raymond Arazu, famous traditionalist, philosopher and priest. First published five years ago, it tells all about this enigma who remained a priest while being firmly rooted in his native tradition to the very end.


How will you to be introduced?

I am Reverend Father Raymond Arazu CSSP. I am a Holy Ghost Father. I went to the juniorate, Ihiala and from there I went to the Holy Ghost Novitiate Awomama, from there to Ishielu and so on.

In 1966 I was ordained priest, the last ordination Arch Bishop Charles Heery did before he died. Then that same year I was sent to Rome, and that same year the war started and my plane was the last to come to Lagos before everything was cut off. I arrived in Rome and the rest of it are in my book: ‘You have One FATHER who is in Heaven’ which I have given to you. Where I worked and so on are contained in it.

The enigma about you is your involvement in the practice of traditional medicine. How do you feel when people see you as a priest and a traditional medicine practitioner at the same time?

Father Raymond Arazu: Yea, you know the word ‘dibia’ (native doctor) in Igbo, Professor Onwuejeogu distinguished dibia afa, dibia aja and dibia ogu. There was one ‘dibia’ he missed, that is: dibia oje n’mmuo.

Now dibia afa is a fortune teller; dibia aja is the one that offers sacrifices and so on, dibia ogu is the herbalist, physician. The priest is dibia aja in Igbo.

There is no word for priest in Igbo. Ukochuku is not an Igbo word. Somebody coined it; the word for priest is ‘dibia aja’, he offers sacrifices for people.

Three-in-one Dibia

Now, some of them combine the three – dibia afa, dibia aja, dibia ogu. I have decided to combine the three because it is my family heritage. My ancestors were ‘dibia ogu’. So, I happened to be ordained dibia aja so I took up with the one in my family, ‘dibia ogu’, quite late in my priesthood.

I was having a lot of problems and I decided to use during the war the knowledge I have. I knew about herbs without being taught because I have used quite many of them. So I decided in the absence of medicine to start using this. And as soon as I started using this, everything I touched improved. I realized that it was a vocation so there is no need, you cannot run away from it. I started using the knowledge I have to help people.

In other words when you were growing up, that is, when you were in the seminary, you did not get any signs?

Father Raymond Arazu: Not at all. No idea. Even after ordination, even when I went to Rome. It was during the war I realized that I know a lot of herbs that can help people and there were no medicine. I started using it and slowly and the thing developed. I realized that it is the heritage of my family that I can’t run away from it.

How big or famous were your forefathers, in the practice of traditional medicine?

In fact in Ihembosi town, I come from Otukpe village. My own clan is called Ezedibia, that is, king of traditional medicine. It is known: every man is a traditional medicine practitioner till tomorrow.

You said you were having a lot of problems as a result of your call to traditional medicine practice and you decided you cannot run away from it. In what way was it disturbing you?

For example, I wrote an article when I was in Rome and I sent it to my congregation and for no reason I was deported the next day. I landed at Uli Airport at mid-night sitting on a bag of rice. It went on and on like that. It was after the war that I was sent back again to finish up and I just got one year for the PhD.

I wrote an article and my superior didn’t like it, that I criticized Irish Holy Ghost fathers, their approach to things in Nigeria. He thought I insulted him and I was sent back to Biafra. The first plane I was to board, they told me that the five pilots were learning to land in Biafra because they were making a lot of money, that they don’t take passengers. So I waited for the next one. Those five pilots all died; they crashed in Biafra and they were buried there. I came when their plane was burning. If I go on and tell other stories….

Yes, I think you need to tell more to convince me that you were really encountering a lot of problems because that you wrote an article and your Superior General didn’t like it cannot be sufficient reason to say you were having a lot of problems?

Father Raymond Arazu: Except that I did not even know why I was encountering these problems. Even before ordination itself I was so being disturbed in my mind that one day I went to the Rector to tell him I want to quit. He said is it about those disturbance you are having? And I said yes. He said then don’t go, then I stayed. When I was teaching in the juniorate at Ihiala I was teaching Geography and Mathematics and at the same, time I decided to take Latin and English Literature at Advanced level, GCE, London on my own.

Now when the result came out they didn’t show me the result, three years after I got a mail from the post office and I went there. There were three certificates. I didn’t know I passed well in those subjects. They kept them. Probably they thought that I would go if I saw it. So I hid the certificates also I didn’t tell them. If you look at the back of my book earlier referred for example, during an oral examination for the Master’s Degree in Theology at Gregorian University, I wrote my Master’s Degree Thesis in Latin.

The professor took me to task; he said which language do we speak in this examination; Italian, French, English or German? I told him any of the four. He said ok. Where do you come from? And I said from Biafra, the Civil War was raging at that time. Then he said we take English Language. He looked more closely at me and then put the examination question to me: “Can you prove that God created this world out of free choice?” We never did such a course. So, my answer: This world is the worst that God omnipotent could have made. If he were not free in his choice he could have made something perfect like Himself. He knows why he chose this very bad one. The professor dropped his pen and looked at me again. When he recovered he said: my friend that was good, you can go. I was given full marks. That is me.

How do you combine your priesthood with the traditional medical practice?

It is not difficult. I have even co-founded an association for scientific investigation of the medicinal plants of Nigeria. We have published a book on it. We want to leave something for posterity.

It is not just a question of a herbal medicine like my forefathers. They learn things by oral tradition if they learnt anything at all. But now we have some thing that can be used even in the university to teach. My vice chairman is a professor in taxonomy; I am the chairman of the association. They don’t want to change me.

We meet every month in Enugu. We are about 45 ‘dibias’ and we go into the forest at least once or twice a year to look at plants in situ that is to say, in their natural environment so that you will be able to pick the plant you are talking about. And when we pick one the taxonomist will tell you the botanical name and the family so that if you don’t find it you can look for another one of the family. Then every dibia around who knows what he can do with that plant will come forward and begin saying this plant is used for this, or that. We now realize that by coming out with the knowledge you have, you learn more.

By giving, you learn, you get. To say this plant is used for malaria, for example, the leaf or plant of root, somebody says I use it for typhoid or I use it for ulcer then from the little knowledge you have of the plant you expand your knowledge and we have video and camera there and all these are documented and after some years they will be published, so that we are leaving something for people. Probably that is why I was brought into this, to leave something for posterity.

In Ghana now traditional medicine is one of the things they take as a Degree Course. In Yoruba land the hospitals are now using traditional medicine with the so-called orthodox medicine. I used the word so-called because the word orthodox means genuine but their own is not genuine because they don’t produce. It is the pharmacist that uses what we have discovered in traditional medicine to mass produce drugs. So, we produce the drugs we use. When somebody is sick you just listen to him.

And when you go to laboratory, I have learnt not to trust our laboratory here because they nearly killed me last year. I was so sick last year all my body was full of boils, my eyes were red, the itching I was having all over my body lasted for more than seven months. I couldn’t sleep. In the end I weighed 45 kilogrammes. And I went to India. The first thing they did to me in India was to put me on de-toxification to remove all the toxins, because in Nigeria they said my liver was malfunctioning and I had obstructive jaundice. So, after the test they carried out in India they came out with the result that nothing was wrong with my liver, nothing was wrong with my kidney and nothing was wrong with my heart but that I had prostrate cancer and that it had gone into the bone marrow, but that it has not got into the colon. In another two weeks if I was in Nigeria I would be dead.

At least I knew what was wrong and they started medication. At least I have drugs for prostrate, I have drugs for cancer. We have them in traditional medicine and I came back with their drugs after my treatment. In fact my prostrate the PSA 28.65. But the normal thing should be between one and four. That 28.65 was because of cancer. Now I used their drugs and my own and after three months I went back. They took the test again and it was less than one unit.

The oncologist there was quite surprised but I didn’t tell him that I combined my own drugs with his own. Now if the diagnosis here was correct I mightn’t have gone to India. So, all that expenditure and suffering wouldn’t have happened.

So I am happy that I am in this traditional medicine practice because I am getting the traditional doctors to work properly. I am the chairman of Anambra State Traditional Medicine Board; I was the Secretary before and we are trying to, if only Government will allow us and give us the necessary infrastructure to organize the traditional doctors well as the chairman of Lagos State traditional medicine board has done. They organize the Lagos one very well so it is recognized in West Africa. He is the only chairman of traditional medicine in Nigeria that is invited to Burkina Faso Meeting that they have, one of my directors attended last year, he said it is only Lagos State that is recognized there because they do it properly and it is not all the States in Nigeria that have traditional medicine board. We are lucky we have one here but we are  not assisted very well to do the job well so we could organize traditional doctors in this State, call a meeting for them and teach them a few new things; tell them how to treat people and also register them so that we can know who they are. If they are going wrong we can caution them.

My question is: how do you combine your priesthood with traditional medicine?

Father Raymond Arazu: What is priesthood actually? I say mass. I teach in the junior seminary. I was parish priest once. Now you could have asked me, how I combine it with music because I have produced 65 psalms of the Bible into Igbo music, Igbo lyric, Igbo language and poetry. It is the best production in Igbo language so far in music. 65 Psalms and the Exultet (Mkpu Onwu nke Pasca). They are so good that the cassette went to University of Nigeria and they invited me and I gave them the cassettes of all these. The faculty of music spent six months putting them into Solfa and Staff Notation. And they gave me an award. Ask me how I get time for all these. I am now revolutionsing church music so that Arch Diocese of Onitsha sent my name to Rome in 1999 as nomination for Religious musician for the Millennium.

If you are interested in anything you find time for it, and find that it even enhances your performance in other sections. In the end what we are here for is to find how we can help human beings, how we can help people not only physically and materially but also spiritually and psychologically. That is why I moved into this area. If you read this book: ‘You have one FATHER who is in heaven’ you find out that we have gone a little further to move our people towards the understanding of God in a universal way with Hinduism, with Buddhism from every  aspect of religion all over the world. As the saying  goes, you don’t watch a masquerade standing at one spot.

So, we are attacking the human problem from every aspect. Even from economic aspect, I employ almost 60 people who are working for me in traditional medicine in so many clinics, in harvesting and in preparing, now that is a way of solving the economic problem of our people. I did a borehole about 15 years ago when I was building this place and the water is certified as good for drinking and is given to people 24 hours free of charge. For so many students living around here, this is where they line up and get their water.

What can we do for human beings? That is why I am here. So when I am gone I will be very happy that in my life time I helped a lot of people to drink water, to get medicine, to improve on their knowledge of God- so many aspects and until there is no more energy left in me then I stop helping people.

So, priesthood is the basic aspect of my life because as a priest you can stop me anywhere and go to confession. We have mass every 7am every Sunday and that mass is one and a half hours. My sermon doesn’t exceed 10 minutes and people can go to mass and go and do other things.

Esoteric Classes

We have also every first Monday of the month here esoteric class; things like  Hebrew Kabala, I teach it here so that people will not be looking for other esoteric organizations or cult organizations. We have it here. We can teach you everything from Blavasky and dean of fortune, even occult masters, how it is done.

If you read my booklet on Witchcraft, we now know that what is holding us down here is witchcraft. Other people use witchcraft to undermine their fellow human beings; they use witchcraft to make sure people don’t progress more than they do. The knowledge of witchcraft is very important, to know how it operates. I have in my book ‘Man know thyself’ I have discovered what can be used to counter that witchcraft with herbal medicine.

These are issues that I feel that God has used me to help people around here. I don’t know whether I have answered your question.

You have but another question I want to ask is: how do you cope with the conservative Catholic Church?

Father Raymond Arazu: When they say the Church, I am part of the church. So that you cannot rule me out. For example, Francis Cardinal Arinze came here two months ago to visit me and I took him round and showed him some of the traditional herbs and so on. When I showed him something that is used for witchcraft he asked how do you know. I told him how I knew and the Cardinal was nodding. The Cardinal eventually turned to the people and said that we need people like Father Arazu. He said that God has created these plants and they can be used to cure people. But there are people who can find out how they can be used and that is why we are grateful to Father Arazu. I was happy the Cardinal said it before so many people; that he didn’t rebuke me for going into traditional medicine, he was praising me.

Which Diocese do you belong to?

Father Raymond Arazu: I am a Holy Ghost Father. As a Holy Ghost Father I belong to the Diocese of the world. We are missionaries. We are in every country of the world; we send people out but our headquarters here is at Onitsha. We have our own set up. We have our superiors and so on. If you are posted to Onitsha Diocese then you are under the Bishop of Onitsha. If you are posted to Owerri you are under the Bishop there. If you are not posted but you are within the congregation itself like this place, it is a Holy Ghost congregation house. It is not part of Awka Diocese but we are in Awka Diocese.

I asked you that question because I cannot recall seeing you during church activities where Reverend Fathers renew their obedience to the Bishop?

I used to go but because of my sickness. I am 75 and I was so sick in the last three years. But I used to be in all these before. In fact in Onitsha Ecclesiastical Province, I used to sit in the marriage tribunal. I was once what you call lawyer or solicitor in the marriage tribunal. Then the Bishop of Nnewi was the chairman.

Also, there was rumour some time ago that you had a problem with the Church and was barred from celebrating mass?

Never! I heard it myself. Somebody told me that and I asked him; can you be barred without being told? I have no problem with anybody.

This place has existed for 15 years. How did you muster the finance to build a place like this?

As soon as I started traditional medicine things get in tow for me. Everything I touch succeeds. I was a civil servant for 23 years even during that time I used to give people medicine under the tree near the Government House. I retired in 1999 and went full time and started getting favours. Everything you see here, people came to beg me to come and buy this place. They needed some money and it wasn’t too expensive – N90,000.00 a plot. So I was able to get that and wall it and put borehole water and I started molding blocks.

I was living in other places like Abagana. It was when my landlord complained that my boys insulted his wife that I had to go. I came here and lived under the deckin and then finished the rest solely. The God with us wanted to help me. I built this place; I supervised it and I didn’t use contractors. There was no help from anybody, everything you see here is a help from the bush.

From my own observation, it appears workers in the dispensary of your clinic keep changing. How do you guarantee the quantity of the drugs sold and produced for you? Are you still in control?  

I have brought in my nephew who is the Chairman, Chemical Society of Nigeria, Enugu branch. He is now the Managing Director because traditional medicine is in our family. He now supervises everything we do. If you notice we have got some powdered drugs in their packets. You see that science has entered the thing proper. Slowly we are moving into powdered drugs. With this we go to NAFDAC and get things properly done.

My nephew is an expert, so he is taking charge completely, but I give him the recipe because I discovered you will marvel. Like the drug I call psychic powder for curing mental sickness. It is not the plant only but the root. Only one plant.

God has given us so much but we don’t exploit them. What gets me worried is the amount of bush burning we have around here. People don’t know what they are doing in bush burning. If you know the amount of money that you are just burning, you can’t believe it and some of these plants, when they are burnt they don’t germinate again. We are losing so many of medicinal plants we have here.

There is law against bush burning but nobody enforces it; and especially Fulani cattle rearers. They go to a big forest and get it burnt so that it becomes grass land for their cattle and we don’t seem to notice it. People just mow down big forest for no reasons. Animals like leopard that used to be around here have gone because there is no forest they can stay. If you watch this compound it is about 13 plots altogether. I did the buildings along the edges so that there will be enough land left for planting of medicinal plants and so on.

People should become more conscious of trees. If you go to Enugu, some places like Polo field that has trees have been bulldozed and there are people who don’t know the value of trees even for the oxygenic we breathe. 

Do you get some traditional medicine men who prepare drugs for you to buy?

No. I produce about 45 different kinds of medicine. We are getting more everyday. I notice that almost every traditional medicine man specializes in one area. We now know that antibiotics don’t do much anymore. If you take too much of it, it can cause blood cancer   and that is why HIV/AIDS can now be cured. For venereal diseases people now turn to traditional medicine for those who can handle it well. So, we are coming in areas where so-called orthodox medicine, so-called because orthodox means genuine but it is our own that is genuine.

The so-called orthodox medicine, a lot of it is fake. So many people are new manufacturing it in Okpoko and they go to Taiwan and bring empty capsules, come here and fill it and sell to people. So, some people die while taking medicine, why? Because the doctor doesn’t produce the medicine, he has to buy and doesn’t control those who sell it to him. There are doctors that are doing very well but they cannot produce the medicine. They have to use the medicine produced by the people he can’t trust.

But that gives you the challenge, the traditional medicine people should go into producing their orthodox stuff in powdered form as it is done in Western Nigeria?

What they are doing now, some traditional doctors have joined us. We have about three or four medical doctors even pharmacists are now joining into producing their medicine in traditional way and some are coming to us now to collect drugs for treating people. The more we get these people we will be happy.

Congratulations on your 75th birth day. How do you feel at 75?   

Last year I was sick; I was almost dead. But now I feel younger than when I was 60. I can now do a lot of things but I can’t play football again.

When you are finally gone, what will you like to be remembered for?

That is why I am writing these books, you have them. They are there in the books.

You will also like to be remembered as one Priest who did the much he can….

… to help human beings, in whatever way I can. Just solve human problems in whatever way God has given me the talent

The example of Charity Maduka, co-founder, Coscharis

C. Don. Adinuba draws many lessons from the example of Mrs Charity Nchedo Maduka, co-founder of the Coscharis Group who died on 27 November 2021

The example of Charity Maduka
C. Don Adinuba

There are at least four important lessons enterpreneurs need to learn from Mr and Mrs Maduka, apart from their integrity, hard work and perseverance. They are frugality, unity between them, trust and intense spirituality.

Late Mrs. Charity Maduka was not just the wife of the chairman of one of Nigeria’s most successful businesses. She was the co-founder of the Coscharis conglomerate.  Coscharis is a neologism derived from the names, Cosmas and Charity.


 
The couple married at an early age in their Nnewi hometown with practically no financial resources and with limited formal education, but with hard work, vision, commitment and integrity turned their humble buying and selling business into a billion dollar conglomerate within a short period, with interests in automobile distribution, vehicle assembly, sale of fast moving automobile accessories, farming and so on.
 
The government and people of Anambra State were delighted when a few years ago the Coscharis Group decided to set up a humungous modern farm in the state in response to the government’s Think Home campaign which seeks to create or raise the consciousness of investors from the state about the imperative of establishing businesses at home.
 
Coscharis has today one of the largest farms in the Southeast geopolitical zone, and it is located in Anaku, headquarters of Ayamelum Local Government Area. The farm has a sophisticated irrigation system, complete with a modern big dam, thus enabling it to engage in both rainy and dry season rice farming.

The example of Charity Maduka
The Madukas

Both Mr Cosmas and Mrs Charity Maduka scored a bully’s eye on October 2, 2019, when Governor Willie Obiano of Anambra State, Governor Abubakar Bagudu of Kebbi State and Central Bank of Nigeria Governor Godwin Emefiele commissioned the $300m Coscharis Rice Mill at Igbariam, Anambra East LGA, the largest rice processing factory in the Southeast.        
 
Governor Bagudu came all the way from Kebbi to find out how Coscharis Rice Mill could process rice from his state, the largest rice-producing state in Nigeria. Stines Rice Mill in Amichi, Nnewi South LGA, has been processing the famous Lake Rice brand in for both Kebbi and Lagos states in their joint venture.
 
 Coscharis Rice is among the best rice brands in the Nigerian market.
 
There are at least four important lessons enterpreneurs need to learn from Mr and Mrs Maduka, apart from their integrity, hard work and perseverance. They are frugality, unity between them, trust and intense spirituality.
 
Despite making a fortune over the decades, the couple has avoided ostentation and showmanship which has enabled it to have a high savings rate, a major driver of fast business growth and rapid national development across the globe. The Chinese enterpreneurs and Warren Buffet of the United States are ready examples in this respect.
 
It is heartwarming that fortune did not cause Cosmas and Charity Maduka to have a shaken marriage, in contrast to many other marriages in Nigeria and elsewhere.
 
It is also remarkable that they trusted each other absolutely up to the point Mrs Maduka breathed her last on Saturday. Mr Maduka has been quoted many times as saying that his wife could withdraw as much as N10 billion without reference to him or obtain credit to this amount unilaterally. Yet, there is no instance of how the high level of trust has been abused. As research has demonstrated, trust is not just a personal virtue but also the basis of prosperity.
 
In spite of their affluence, the couple is known for their intense spirituality. They have in recent years been seen preaching the gospel even in markets and parks. Their deep spirituality explains, to a large extent, their humility and integrity and other virtues which drive rapid business growth.

The example of Charity Maduka

The example of Charity Maduka

Mrs. Maduka died on Saturday 27 November 2021 at her home town of Nnewi.

Coscharis boss loses wife, Nchedo Maduka

Chief Cosmas Maduka, Coscharis boss, loses wife, Nchedo Charity last Saturday at Nnewi, Anambra State.

Mrs. Nchedo Charity Maduka, wife of billionaire Industrialist Cosmas Maduka of Coscharis Group, has died.

Born 24 December 1958, she would have celebrated her 63rd birthday 25 days from today.

Family sources said she died of stroke at her Nnewi hometown residence, Anambra State, last Saturday 27 November.

She was Vice President of Coscharis Group and a pillar of support to her husband of 43 years.

Coscharis boss loses wife
The Madukas

Their marriage is blessed with four children, three boys and a girl who is named after her mother Charity.

There is as yet no official announcement of her passing.

The Punch newspaper however quotes her daughter to have confirmed the death in a telephone conversation.

Enugu Metro wishes the Maduka family strength to bear the loss.

Anambra Govt mourns

Gov. Willie Obiano last night condoled with the Madukas on the loss of the matriarch.

Govt. Spokesperson, Chief C. Don Adinuba said in a statement that the news was received with shock.
 
The Governor, he said, has called the husband to commiserate with him on the death of “his soul mate” and prayed with him.
 
“She was a worthy ambassador of the womenfolk everywhere”, Obiano said in the statement.

Coscharis boss loses wife

Lawyer wins N50m Literature Prize for debut novel

Prof. Cheluchi Onyemelukwe-Onuobia, academic and lawyer wins N50m Literature Prize for her debut novel, The Son of the House.

Penguin in January 2019 published the novel by Cheluchi, a professor of law at Nigeria’s Babcock University.

The NLNG-sponsored Prize, easily Africa’s richest literary award, delivers $100,000 (about N50 million) to the winner each year.

Ultimately, the advisory board considered Prose Fiction entries for this year’s Prize.

The son of the House beat two other entry finalists to grab a win, announced at the Weekend by the Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) Company.

The three title novels that made it to the final stages are:

  • Abi Dare, The Girl with The Louding Voice
  • Obinna Udenwa, The Colours of Hatred, and
  • Cheluchi Onyemelukwe-Onuobia, The Son of The House

The Board Advisory Chair for the Prize, Prof. Akachi Adimora-Ezeigbo, anounced the three finalists at a virtual press conference on 27 August.

The Selection Process

A total 202 authors successfully submitted entries for the Prize.

However a board of judges subsequently pruned the entries to 11 best works from the pack.

The Best Eleven included the following:

Obianuju V. ChukwuorjiDelusion of Patriots
Samuel MonyeGive Us Each Day
Chukwudi EzeThe Return of Half- Something
Anaele IhuomaImminent River
Olukorede S. YishauIn The Name of Our Father
Tony NwakaMountain of Yesterday
Lucy Chiamaka OkwumaNeglected
Obinna UdenwaThe Colours of Hatred
Abi DareThe Girl with The Louding Voice
Law Ikay Ezeh Your Church My Shrine
Cheluchi Onyemelukwe-OnuobiaThe Son of The House

Toyin Jegede, professor of Literature in English at the University of Ibadan, chaired the 3-person panel that shortlisted the 11.

Others were Prof. Tanimu Abubakar (Arts Department, Ahmadu Bello University), and Dr. Solomon Azumurana (Department of English, University of Lagos).

About the Book

The Son of the House is the story of two kidnapped women who spend their time in captivity swapping stories that connected their childhood challenges to contemporary pains of women in an African cultural setting. Thus, the novel explores subsisting African cultural themes around polygamy and patriarchy and their gender impact.

The Son was consequently greeted with critical acclaim at its publication, and has now chalked up three significant awards.

A reviewer in GoodReads said the following of the book’s technique and ending:

“I wasn’t ready for the book to end when it did. It leaves the reader on a semi-cliffhanger, although not an unsatisfying one. Rather than feeling cheated as I often do when things don’t feel fully concluded, I instead felt free to imagine the next chapters of the story (and) how I’d like to see them.”

The Son of the House has been shortlisted for Canada’s prestigious Scotiabank Giller Prize for 2021.

However, it already chalked up three big wins including the NLNG Prize and the 2020 SprinNG Women Authors Prize.

In addition, it also won Best International Fiction Book Award at the Sharjah International Book Fair its first publication year (2019).

About the NLNG Prize

Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) announced the Prize in 2004 as the NLNG Prize for Literature.

Today, advisory board members who administer the Prize come from the Nigeria Academy of Letters and Association of Nigerian Authors.

At its inception, the prize winner took home $20,000. The amount was progressively raised to $30,000 (2006), $50,000 (2008) and $100,000 in 2011.

The Prize was not awarded in three years (2004, 2009, 2015) because award judges considered entries sub-standard.

The Prize rotates yearly amongst four literary categories: prose fiction, poetry, drama, and children’s literature.

Lawyer wins N50m Literature Prize

Remembering MC John Chukwu, the pathfinder comedian

Poet UZOR MAXIM UZOATU is remembering MC extraordinary John Chukwu (JC), the pioneer comedian and Lagos after-hours entrepeneur.

People have completely forgotten that before the coming of the riches of Ali Baba and Okey Bakassi and their vast array of young arrivistes of modern comedy in Nigeria, there was one pioneer of the art who bore the name John Chukwu.

John Chukwu or John God or JayCee or John Tsuku, or whatever came to Lagos with no kobo in his pocket – just like me. However, it took no time at all for all of Lagos to take notice that John Chukwu was a one-man riot squad who shared the JC initials with legends such as Julius Caesar, Jimmy Carter, and even Jesus Christ!

JayCee was a man of many parts. He acted on television and radio, and in films such as Ola Balogun’s Amadi and Jab Adu’s Bisi, Daughter of the River. He was at one time the publisher, reporter, advert manager, cartoonist, circulation manager, owner etc. of the newspaper called Mailbag.

Because he combined so many duties all by himself, after fighting with the vendors in Oshodi, he would be late to meet with the vendors in the Lawanson area who would eventually run away with his money!

One thing however stood him out. As an original master of stand-up comedy, John Chukwu was nonpareil.
There was this night my friends and I took some classy ladies to a John Chukwu show. After John Chukwu had thrilled all of us with his jokes, the ladies refused to follow us home. The ladies said they were all marching to John Chukwu’s hotel to listen to his jokes until the break of dawn.

We had no other option than to follow the ladies to keep company with John Chukwu and his jokes until morning broke!

Editor’s Note

JayCee, as he was popularly known in Lagos social circles, was born in 1947 as John Uzodinma Chukwu-Ochie.

His parents, Emmanuel and Catherine Chukwu-Ochie, were both from Ezichukwu Quarters in Maku, Awgu Local Government Area of Enugu State.

John’s father, Emmanuel was a staff of federal forestry Department serving at Ubiaja in Edo State where John, the eldest of many children, was born in 1947.

Some of John’s siblings were also talented artists. For instance, his immediate younger brother, Victor Chukwu, was a noted musician and band owner. The legendary Oliver de Coqe was a guitarist in Victor’s band, the Black Irokos International Band (originally known as the Anambra International Band).

John Chukwu enrolled into the famous St. Theresa’s Secondary School Nsukka before the war.

He had a flair for languages and was a powerful orator. It was to make his name easier to pronounce that he decided to cut off “Ochie” ftom it. He was also upset that people pronounced Ochoe as if it means “old” instead of the question “he’s crowned?”

John died in October 1990, exactly 31 years ago.


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Ndubuisi Kanu night of tributes holds 9 Oct in Abuja

Abuja is getting ready for Rear Admiral Ndubuisi Godwin Kanu night of Tributes coming up this Saturday 9 October 2021.

It’s a night of tributes for the gallant navy chief who embraced democracy with zeal.

Kanu died on 13 January, aged 77, as a result of complications arising from the COVID-19 virus.

He will be buried in his native Isiukwato, Abia State, on 15 October 2021.

Event organisers, Pan-Igbo Movement Intiative (PiMi), wants to honour “a man who stood firmly for democracy at great inconvenience in the heady days that preceded civilian rule in 1999.”

“Rear Admiral was a great man who stood up to be counted whenever matters that affected Nigeria were discussed.

“He acquitted himself creditably in his military career, stood firm in his place discharging his duties gallantly during and after the Civil War,” PiMi Convener, Dr. Iyke Ezeugo said.

Ezeugo enjoined Nigerians to join Abuja residents to honour Rear Admiral Kanu.

“He was a simple, intelligent, brave man, an outstanding nationalist who left us with an excellent example of service and leadership.

“Kanu spoke only when it mattered and without fear or favour. His sense of purpose and style of engagements in social, political and developmental matters distinguished him.

About Ndubuisi Kanu

Born 3rd November 1943, Kanu was just 31 when he was appointed to Murtala Muhammed’s Supreme Military Council.

Olusegun Obasanjo, who succeeded Murtala in 1976, appointed him military Governor of Imo State (the present Abia, Imo, and parts of Ebonyi States).

He was later made Governor of Lagos State.

Kanu returned to the Navy as an outstanding Chief with remarkable service medals. He also served with the United Nations Forces in Lebanon.

He is credited with providing the vision, resources and platform for the town planners that prepared the development plan of the old Imo state which Gov. Sam Mbakwe executed to the letter.

The Governor increased the number of local government areas in the State to 21 and also established the Imo Broadcasting Service (now Imo Broadcasting Corporation).

After his retirement, he founded RANGK Ltd, a maritime consultancy.

He was also Chairman of the Ohaneze Transition Caretaker Committee, and was Director of Fidelity Bank PLC.

The ex’navy officer became a top National Democratic Coalition (NADECO) chieftain and later the Chairman of the coalition in 2013.

Kanu was married and left behind children.

Ndubuisi Kanu night of tributes holds 9 Oct in Abuja

Abdulaziz Ude was a father-figure, and I’m in pains!

Abdulaziz Ude wasa father-figure and I’m in pains is a tribute by controversial Harvard-trained lawyer, EMEKA UGWUONYE. His testimony fills the gaps in our knowledge of this Enugu-born enigmatic billionaire.

Abdulaziz Ude was my father-figure, by Emeka Ugwuonye

I just lost a father, who has been there for me for the past 30 years. It is a big blow that I did not foresee. I mistakenly thought he would live forever. And now, he is gone, suddenly, but with much dignity as he lived.

When I was leaving the University of Benin for the Nigerian Law School in 1991, I had performed well in Uniben. I was popular among the wise and the prudent. Many wished me well. Two professors from Enugu – Professor Ene, the Acting Vice-Chancellor, from Udi, and Professor Amechi Onyia, of the College of Medicine, also from Udi – took active interest in me and they all wanted me to go far further in my development.

As I was heading to Lagos for the Nigerian Law School, Professor Amechi Onyia gave me a letter, which he asked me to deliver to one wealthy philanthropist from our state. The philanthropist was Chief Alhaji Abdulaziz Ude, also from Abor, Udi. (All these men were from the same local government area of Enugu State). The letter Professor Onyia gave me to deliver to Chief Abdulaziz Ude was sealed. I had no idea what he wrote in that letter. But the address where I was to deliver it was very clear – 59 Awolowo Road, Ikoyi, Lagos.

I got to Lagos, and while completing the registration procedure for Law School, I decided to use the opportunity to deliver Professor Onyia’s letter. I came to the office of Chief Abdulaziz Ude. But he was not there. (In fact, he was such a big man that I did not really expect to meet him personally. I just wanted to deliver the letter and disappear in the direction I came from). I met with Chief Ude’s manager. I handed over the letter to him and turned and left.

I was almost about to jump into a bus when I heard someone calling me. I turned back. It was someone on the balcony of Chief Ude’s office beckoning me back to the building. The manager handed me back the letter I had delivered. He said to me: “Because of the nature of the content of this letter, I advise you to deliver this letter personally to Chief Ude. And for that purpose, you should go to his residence in Mekuien Road, Ikoyi”. That was how the letter I had delivered was rejected and I was redirected.

As I was in the bus heading back to where I was staying, pending the opening of the Nigerian Law School students hostel, I became so curious about the content of the letter that caused it to be returned to me. Obviously, the letter has been opened by the manager. So, it won’t be an offence if I peeped inside it. I gently opened the letter. In it, Professor Onyia wrote:

“Dear Oduneje Ogu I” (one of the chieftaincy titles of Chief Ude), “This young man is from our place. He is leaving Uniben one of the best ever. He is someone I think you should watch”.

That was it. At that point, I did not really know Chief Ude beyond the various newspaper articles I read that depicted him as very wealthy and that he was from Enugu State. I didn’t know much else about him. So, I didn’t know what else to make out of this letter and the need to deliver it to him. However, I was pleased to know what Professor Onyia thought about me. The idea of me being watched was a bit scary, though. Was I so dangerous that I needed to be watched by a very rich and powerful man? I wasn’t sure really what to make out of that. But I set my mind to meeting Chief Ude.

First encounter with Chief Ude

The day came, a few weeks later. I was already in the student’s hostel of the law school. I took a bus to Falomo bus-stop in Ikoyi, and trekked from there to Chief Ude’s house (about a mile from the bus-stop). His staff I met at the gate took the letter from me and went in with it. Because of my previous experience, I did not leave. I stayed to know what would happen after he would have seen the letter.

The staff came right back and told me to follow him. He led me into his living room where Chief Ude was waiting for me, with Professor Onyia’s was waiting. (I was later to learn that Chief Ude and Professor Onyia had been close friends since their days as students of Columbia University in New York. Hence, the letter was well-received).

I found myself in one of the most stupendously rich and affluent living rooms I was ever to see in real life then. The living room was like a hall and attendants and personal staff were everywhere. I was led straight to a calm man with much aura around him. As I stood in front of him, I could see the letter in his hand.

He didn’t waste time at all. Powerful and intelligent men don’t waste time because time is precious to them. He said to me: “You are now at the law school here?” I said yes. He said: “I have heard what Amechi said about you. I want you to come back next week. Bring with you the list of all you need for the Nigeria law school”.

I thanked him and left. It all lasted less than five minutes.

When I returned to the law school hostel, I calculated all I needed for the entire year at the Nigerian law school – school fee, feeding, books, etc., and it came to N29,000 and change. I wanted to take the list to Chief Ude. But I reasoned thus: “I have already paid my school fees at the law school.

Another Benefactor of mine, who paid for my education in Uniben, Engr. Clement Aningo and his wife, Rita Aningo, from Oghe, had already paid everything I needed at the Law School. To now collect N29,0000 from Chief Ude would be a double portion, an unneeded excess, which I might just waste. Also, this Chief Ude is a very wealthy man. Why exhaust his generosity on Nigerian Law School fees which I didn’t need? Why not reserve it for Harvard Law School, which I plan to attend in two years’ time?” With this thought on my mind, I did not go back to Chief Ude as he asked me to.

I felt sure he would forget me. But I did not forget him.

Abdulaziz Ude was my father-figure, by Emeka Ugwuonye

Harvard Law: a Dream Comes True

Two years later, I got admission to study at Harvard Law School. The school fees at Harvard Law School then was $53,000.

I was working at Chevron as an entry level baby lawyer. There was no way I could afford Harvard school fees unless I was helped. I went to my boss then, Mr. Godfrey Etikerentse, the General Counsel of Chevron, to ask for help from Chevron. He was happy for me to study at Harvard, but there was no clear channel for Chevron to give scholarship to a baby lawyer who hadn’t even been with them for up to 12 months. So, his initial response was lukewarm.

The only other person that crossed my mind was Chief Ude. I decided to go back to him two years after I met him that once.

It was a hot May whether. It was night, around 7pm. I showed up at the home of Chief Ude, armed with nothing other than the letter of admission from Harvard. The atmosphere was light and friendly at the gate and the gatemen let me in. They didn’t know me. I was just a young man (23-year old) that wanted to see Chief Ude. I was actually surprised that they would let me in without rigorous questioning. But they only let me into the compound. It was still a huddle to get to see Chief Ude.

When I finally made it into the living room, I saw a lot of people all dressed like Alhajis waiting for him. His living room was like a conference of many Alhajis. As I stepped into the living room, I saw a pair of legs descending from a spiral stairway in the middle of the living room. The legs soon turned into a body with a head. And guess who came down the stairs. It was Professor Amechi Onyia, he had come to visit his friend just that evening. We had not seen again since I left Uniben. Then, there was no cell phone or internet or text messaging – so, no contact with Professor Onyia since I left Uniben two years earlier.

He was surprised to see me. The first thing he said to me was: “Chief Ude said you never came back”. I said: “Yes, sir: the work at the law school was so rigorous and I could not come back. But I am here now. And I have a message for the Chief”.

I handed him the letter of admission from Harvard Law School. He looked at it and was excited. He told me to stand at that spot and wait. He disappeared up the same spiral stairway he came down from two minutes ago. I stood there like a pillar of salt.

Less than five minutes later, I saw Professor Onyia’s legs coming down the stairs again. But this time, he did not come all the way down. He only got to the point where I could see his face. He motioned for me to follow him up the stairs. I did. As I walked into another hall, I saw a group of men sitting and one man was behind the desk and obviously the leader. That was Chief Ude. He was holding the letter of admission in his hand. Apparently, Professor Onyia had explained everything to him, including why I did not come back as he directed me two years earlier.

As I stood in front of him, Chief Ude said in our dialect: “My friend, what else did they say you passed?” (Asi no gini ka I passikwalu ozo?). As he asked, he was looking at my admission letter. He continued: “To get admission to Harvard Law School, you must be a truly brilliant young man”. Then as if he forgot that I was still standing, he said, again with a proverb: “Dia anyi nolo ana tupu ibutalu m obia”, which meant simply that I should be seated. I sat down.

The Letter to Harvard

Without saying anything else to me, Chief Ude called his secretary, Mr. Paul Ugwu, who was there. He said to Mr. Ugwu: “Please take a dictation for a letter to Harvard Law School”. The next thing I noticed was Chief Ude dictating a letter to be sent by fax to Harvard.

He started: “Dear Sir: Your letter to Candidate Ephraim Emeka Ugwuonye dated ——- apropos. I hereby give myself the privilege of contributing modestly to this young man’s brilliant academic career by undertaking to pay his school fees at Harvard Law School. Please contact me for all that is required”.

He handed the letter of Admission to Mr. Ugwu so he would know how to address the letter he just dictated.

I was shocked. I was confused. How could this be possible? I came to him hoping he would give me about $10,000 and I would go elsewhere for the rest. But look at this!

I didn’t believe it. I looked around the room again to see if these men had been drinking. But there was no trace of alcohol anywhere around. I was still confused when Mr. Ugwu returned with the letter for signature. The Chief signed the letter on the spot and five minutes after, Mr. Ugwu returned to inform him that the letter has been faxed to Harvard. I remember Chief Ude saying to Mr. Ugwu: “Harvard will contact us soon. So, be ready for that”.

Then addressing both Mr. Ugwu and I, he said: “Get together, get his international passport and you get ready to travel.”

As I left the house of Chief Ude that night, I could not feel my feet touching the ground. It was as if I was floating in the air. I remembered the stories my grandmother had told me, of spirits that floated in the air and I wondered if I had become one. I really could not believe all that happened. I thought I was dreaming.

Chevron sows a doubt

The next day, in the office, Mr. Etikerentse called me to ask about my plans for Harvard. I did not know that Mr. Etikerentse had been working behind the scene to get Chevron to offer me a scholarship. But that would be on the condition that I would return back to Lagos to continue working for Chevron.

I told Mr. Etikerentse my encounter with Chief Ude the night before. He did not believe it. He said to me:

“Please don’t take such promise seriously. Do you realize how expensive it is to attend Harvard University? Only your blood father can spend that amount on your education. Don’t accept the offer from any individual. It is a 419-promise. He will disappoint you down the line”.

With this from Mr. Etikerentse, a boss I respected so much, my doubts about Chief Ude’s offer increased. I began to think over it. My mind went to a particular phrase in Chief Ude’s letter to Harvard “…to contribute modestly to this young man’s brilliant academic career.” I concluded that Ude did not mean to bear the entire school fees, that he only intended to contribute a part of it.

The question then was how much would he be contributing?

Few days later, I had an opportunity to know exactly how much Chief Ude wanted to contribute and to confirm if Mr. Etikerentse was right that nobody would pay all that money for a person that is not his biological son. That opportunity arose when Harvard Law School sent straight to Chief Ude’s office a form known as sponsor’s declaration and proof of funds. They wanted him to state exactly how much he was willing to commit and the proof of availability of funds.

Mr. Ugwu sent for me. I rushed to his office. He told me that he just got the form for Chief Ude to sign but that Chief Ude had left to the airport on his way to China, and that he was trying to see if we could still meet him at the airport before his flight would take off.

So, Mr. Ugwu scrambled one of the Chief Ude’s cars and drivers, and we headed to Murtala Mohammed airport. I wasn’t very familiar with the airport then. The only time I had ever flown was when Chevron sent me to their base at Escravos near Warri and when they sent me to Port Harcourt on errand.

Encounter on a Private Jet

When we got to the airport, we were allowed to drive close to the plane. Airport security as we know it now did not exist; the idea that terrorists could bomb a plane was still very remote and fictional. So, we drove to where the plane was parked. That was the first time I was to see a private jet in real life or to enter into one.

As we ascended the plane from the rear door, I saw what I did not expect of an airplane. First, we crossed an area described as the bedroom and walked up toward the front where there was the living room and office setting. We met the crew and the pilot. They knew Mr. Ugwu, but did not know me. They were expecting us.

They asked us to sit down, that Chief Ude was having his shower and would soon join us. He was having his shower in the private jet? Jesus! I thought about it.

Shortly after, the Chief came out and said to me: “I understand there is something I have to sign”. I said: “Yes, sir”. He took the form from Mr. Ugwu. He glanced at it and signed it where there was space for signature.

He did not try to fill the form. He did not try to put a figure in the space where the sponsor was to state exactly how much he was paying. That was what I was expecting to see – how much exactly Chief Ude wanted to “contribute” to my education at Harvard.

When he gave back the form to Mr. Ugwu with his signature but without any amount stated, I was forced to say something.

“Sir, you did not state the amount you would be paying for me”.

“But you should know the amount they require?”

“Yes, sir, it is $53,000”.

“Then write it there. Don’t worry, Paul will fill the spaces. Just give him any information he needs. Better still, he should get the information from Harvard”.

As we left the plane, I was even more confused. I still did not believe that Chief Ude would pay 100% of the fees required by Harvard.

To make sure there was no confusion over this, I used the opportunity of this meeting to inform Chief Ude that Chevron was considering giving me a scholarship. But, he waived it off.

“That is going to tie you down after your leave Harvard. You need to be free. So, don’t accept Chevron’s offer”.

All this was playing in my head. I felt that if Ude felt he might disappoint me down the line, he would not encourage me to turn down Chevron’s alternative offer. I went home unable to sleep.

The Prince of London

Let’s fast forward.

Two months later, everything was set for me to leave Nigeria. Chief Ude arranged for me to come to London, UK, to spend some time before continuing to Harvard in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Everything was arranged. My paperwork and travel document were ready and Harvard was expecting me. I already had host parents in Cambridge (Mead and Susan Wymans) expecting me.

I left Lagos for London in July. When I arrived in London, I was shocked to see a white man carrying a placard with my name written on it. Can you imagine? A white man was there waiting for this village boy from Enugu. I went to him and introduced myself. He greeted me.

“Good morning, Sir. Welcome to London. Chief Abdulaziz Ude sent us”.

He had another man standing next to him, whom I later learned to be Mr. Sule, the Egyptian who was Chief Ude’s personal driver in London. The two men took by suitcase and led me to a Mercedes Benz. They took me to the Royal Garden Hotel near Hyde Park.

When we got to the hotel, I could overhear the men speaking to the hotel manager. They told him I was Chief Ude’s guest and I was to stay at the hotel for four weeks at the rate of 150 pounds a night.

I was checked into my room on the 4th floor. From the window, I could see the heart of London and the streets below. This village boy from Enugu State is now in London.

My brains were undergoing rapid transformation. I immediately began to drop the past life and to assume the new one. Everything inside me instantly began to change. I was thinking about all this when I fell asleep.

It was a very long sleep. I arrived London by 5:30am with an overnight flight from Lagos. I checked into the hotel around 7:30am. I had my first ever English breakfast around 8:30am. I tried to pretend I was used to everything around me, even though I was seeing most of my surrounding for the first time. I slept off around 10am.

The next thing I heard was my hotel room phone ringing. I picked it. The voice was from the reception: “Mr. Ugwuonye, you have a guest. Please hold on for him”. I could remember the voice of Sule. He said in perfect English accent: “Mr. Ugwuonye, the Chief wonders if you would be available to have dinner with him tonight”. Before he could finish, I think I shouted “yes” more than three times. Then I thought: “Wow! These people really know how to say the opposite of what they mean to say. How can be wondering if I would be available for him, when he owns all my time”.

I dressed up quickly and came down to the lobby and Sule pulled up the car, a different Mercedes Benz from the one they came to pick me up at the Airport. I got in and I was taken to a mansion in Central London, which I learnt was Chief Ude’s residence in London. He had set up a dinner and invited a few British friends of his. And his wife, Philomena, a medical doctor, who had been his childhood sweetheart, was there.

While seated there, I saw the visitors eating some fruits that looked round in shape, bigger than peas in size but very much smaller than apples. Those fruits were in three different colors – dark red, black and green. I had never seen or eaten that stuff, but since everybody was eating it, I did not want to advertise my village background by not joining them. That was how I tasted grapes for the first time in my life. I told you everything was changing in my life very fast. In 24 hours, so much change had occurred already.

A crash course in upper class manners

It was then it dawned on me why Chief Ude wanted me to spend weeks in London before going to Harvard. He knew that I would meet the children of Presidents and Prime Ministers from all over the world in Harvard. He wanted me to blend better by giving me a crash-orientation on how to look urbane and aristocratic among my classmates at Harvard. It was to push out of me much of the village and replace it with the urbane cultured disposition of the suave of the elite by the time my classmates would meet me.

For the two weeks I was in London, it was one day for a tour of London, guided by various professional tour guides, and the next day a dinner with Chief Ude and his British friends. Because I quickly understood the plan, I made effort to learn and soak up things like a sponge does to water.

After four weeks, I made a remarkable improvement. I began to look debonair. I learned to smile, walk and speak in a sophisticated manner characteristic of a well-groomed man of the world. I learned the names of wines and food, and the gestures of a British elite. I even began to speak like them and make my facial expressions like them.

I also learnt things about Chief Ude that I had not known all this while. He was a highly sophisticated and well-trained man with vast knowledge of the world. He schooled in Oxford University where he got his BSc Degree and Columbia University in New York where he got his Masters Degree in Economics. He was too well educated.

The then President of Guinea, Seko Toure, took him as his son and made him his Special Adviser. It was through the influence and his relationship with President Seko Toure that Chief Ude converted to Islam and became ultimately Chief Alhaji Abdulaziz Ude. It is important to note that Ude’s conversion to Islam, to which he remained faithful till death, had no Nigerian influence.

Then came the day in August when I was to fly from London to Boston. School would resume officially on August 24th, I was to arrive Boston on August 23, the same day I was to leave London.

During our dinner on August 22nd, Chief Ude instructed Sule to bring me early on 23rd so that he would personally escort me to the airport. But Sule suggested that there was no need for him to come to the airport in person, that he could take me to the airport. But Chief Ude said no, that he would like to see me off to the airport personally.

On 23rd I was brought to Chief Ude’s residence around 11am. I had checked out of the hotel by 10:30am. My flight was to take off by 5pm from Heathrow International Airport, London, to Logan International Airport, Boston. Chief Ude and I had lunch together by 12noon.

After lunch we returned to our seats in the living room. We were just talking and he was telling me things. He was particularly nice. In the past one month that I had been in London, even though he travelled out of London twice during that time, he spent time with him, and he allowed me to sit in during his social meetings with people and he always introduced me and he told his guests that I was very bright and that I was going to Harvard Law School. So, I had gotten used to his presence and I could see that this man had taken me like his own child.

Nobody seeing us in London would know that he and I met not long ago.

By 1pm, Chief Ude said to me:

“We need to get going. Go over there and count out 50 of those” (pointing me to a table at the end of the hall).

When I got to the table, I saw 100-dollars bills in pile of currency. I was momentarily shocked at the heap of currency. My mind quickly rushed to what Mr. Etikerentse had told me, that this whole thing I was doing with Chief Ude sounded like a 419-thing. Despite that what I now knew about Ude had disabused my mind of any such notion, I was still stunned by the large amount of money.

I carefully counted out 50 of the notes. I came back to Chief Ude and said:

“Sir, here it is”, showing him the bundle of $5,000 in my hand.

“That is what you should spend from until you are able to cash this”, he said and he handed a cheque of $55,000 to me.

I was staring in confusion. We then took pictures and got into the car to the airport. He rode with me in the back of one of his Mercedes cars to the Airport. We hugged and he said goodbye to me.

I felt tears in my eyes. My biological father was long dead. The only parent I had at that time was my mother. And this man just adopted me as his son.

I was quite emotional.

As I walked through the light airport security. That time, there was no such airport security as we know it today. You can even get to the entrance of the plane without anybody asking for your ID card.

Coming to America

As I walked into the airport, I touched my pocket to see if the dollars were still there. They were there. I then said: Okay, let me confirm that the dollars were real money. Human mind can play all sorts of tricks on us. Though at this point I had no reason to doubt Chief Ude, my mind still urged me to confirm that the money was real.

So, I stopped by a store at the airport to try to buy something. I grabbed a pair of socks and gave the seller one of the dollar bills. He took it and gave me change without questions asked. There was no doubt, the money was real.

That evening when I landed at Logan, I was looking in all directions, as a new comer, and a young custom officer asked me if I had money on me. I said yes. He asked me how much. I asked him if cheques could be included and he said yes. I told him that I had $60,000 on me.

He was shocked. He took me to their office and said to a more senior custom officer that “this kid has $60,000 on him”.

The senior officer asked me to show him. I brought out the almost $5000 cash and $55,000 cheque.

He asked me what was all the money for. I told him it was my school fees at Harvard. He already saw that Harvard University was stamped on my visa. I saw the man shake his head and say to his colleagues:

“They tell us that Africans are poor, and an African kid just walks in with two times my annual salary in his pocket”.

He shrugged his shoulders and gave me back my money, and stamped my passport and allowed me through.

A father figure to the end

The Chief Ude that I am talking about is dead! I just got the news. He died at nearly age 81. So, he lived long enough ordinarily. I did not realize I would miss him so much. But now, I realize with so much pain how much that man loved me. He cared for me. He cared about my children. In fact, I named my only biological son, Ude, after Chief Ude.

When I heard of his death, I thought I could accept it as the fact of life. After all, we all shall die. But, no, I can’t just accept it. My body doesn’t accept it. I am gutted. I am totally torn to pieces right now.

It was not just that he paid my school fees at Harvard, Chief Ude remained a father figure to me throughout. He was so agonized over my fights with the Nigerian government. He felt it was not necessary. He felt I had everything it took for me to avoid the fights, even if it meant staying safely away from Nigeria for the time being. He knew that I have had close friendship with many influential Nigerians including past Heads of State of Nigeria. He once wondered why I could not use my friendship to block off some of the needless and highly destructive clashes I have been involved in.

My only guilt today is the feeling that the disruptive encounters I have had with the Nigeria Government took away much of the time I needed to have spent with Chief Ude in his last days on earth. If anybody told me last week that I would not see Chief Ude today, I would not believe it.

At a different occasion, I will share with the world, the details of my continued relationship with Chief Ude. We remained so close after I left Harvard. He once took me on a tour to three African countries just to introduce me to his friends in Guinea, Algeria and Morocco. He spoke perfect French.

To see how close we were, I will tell you this story. In 2006, after my divorce, I started a relationship with another lady (a Nigerian lady). I came to introduce the lady to Chief Ude. He already heard that I was going out with the lady and he was concerned about the possibility of us getting married. But he said nothing to me.

However, the day I came to introduce the lady to him, he refused to see me. He sent a message that he was too tired from playing golf. I left without seeing him.

On a second occasion, I came to see him with the lady, with intention to introduce her. Again, he refused to see us. Apparently, he knew more about the lady than I did. (The lady is a politician and well-known. She was older than I by many years, but age was not the issue). So, she was a well-known person in Nigeria. Again, the Chief could not see us. Instead, he sent for me to meet him somewhere else in his vast compound.

When I stepped in, I met him visibly upset with me. For the first time, I saw him upset with me. He screamed at me: “Che che la feme! Che che la femme!” in French.

“What the hell are you doing with that lady?”.

He was really upset with me. He scolded me.

He said: “The story of Sampson and Delilah is not just a story in the Bible. It is a story of life. It doesn’t matter how successful a man may be, if he makes a mistake in his choice of woman, she will bring the whole roof down on his head”. He spoke to me as a father and I got the message.

As if he knew that I was a stubborn man, the following month, Chief Ude sent Alex Akporji, his confidant, to travel from Nigeria to meet me in Washington to deliver the same advice.

The summary of it is that Chief Ude cared so much for me that he was concerned that I was going to make a mistake in a choice of a wife. That is the fear of every true father.

A man blessed in his children

Chief Ude has grown biological children, who are so well established and we’re trained in schools like Harvard, Yale, Stanford, and University of Pennsylvania. They are lawyers and doctors, etc.

He also trained countless people all over the world.

We all owe so much to him. His life was of great benefit to many. And his death is the greatest tragedy I have encountered in recent time. He left a legacy that must live forever.

Abdulaziz Ude was my father-figure, by Emeka Ugwuonye