By JAPHET ALAKAM & PRISCA SAM-DURU
VANGUARD’S Arts Editor, Mr.Mcphillips Nwachukwu, is dead. He died at Golden Cross hospital, Festac Town, Lagos after he suffered a choking cough in the early hours of Sunday, September 29, 2013. He was aged 47.
Mr. Nwachukwu returned from South Africa on Friday September 27, where he had gone for medical check up.
Before his death, Nwachukwu was observing his annual leave and was due to resume work yesterday. A poet, writer and frontline journalist, he was the Arts Editor of Vanguard Newspapers till his death.
Born in 1966 in Mbaise, Imo State, Nwachukwu had a degree in English from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, where his flair for creative writing was first nurtured. He also had a master’s degree in English from the University of Lagos, and was doing his doctorate degree in the same institution.
The management has opened a condolence register for him in its corporate head office in Apapa, Lagos.
At his Festac Town, Lagos residence on Tuesday, the atmosphere was one of grief, silence and disbelief. Some of his colleagues and friends in the arts and culture sector expressed grief over his death.
Also, at Vanguard’s head office where Nwachukwu worked for 15 years, his colleagues are still in shock, finding it difficult to believe that he is dead after he survived a serious illness some months ago.
Nwachukwu hailed from Ezuhu Umuhu, Okwuato in Aboh Mbaise LGA of Imo State. He is survived by brothers, sisters, wife and a daughter.
Nwachukwu was passionate about general arts and has been a veteran Arts journalist for over two decades. He joined Vanguard Newspapers in 1998 as a staff writer and was promoted to the post of Assistant Arts Editor/head of Arts desk in October 2002. In 2009, he was again promoted to the post of Arts Editor, a position he held until his death.
He spent his entire career on the beat — gathering news, setting the agenda for the industry, mentoring young reporters and making sure Vanguard Newspapers reported Arts robustly.
He was a thorough professional — Muku
Reacting to Nwachukwu’s death, Director -General of National Gallery of Art, (NGA), Abdullahi Muku, said: “We at the National Gallery of Art, NGA, received with shock and consternation the news of the passing away of Mcphillips Nwachukwu, on Sunday September 29, 2013. He was a passionate Arts reporter, writer and editor, whose contribution to the promotion and propagation of all aspects of the Arts including the Visual Art sub-sector, is invaluable.He approached his job with unwavering professionalism and uncanny devotion. We at the Gallery considered him a real friend. He would be sorely missed. We wish him eternal rest in the bosom of the Lord.”
It’s a monumental loss to Arts — Babawale
Professor Tunde Babawale, Director General/CEO, CBAAC, Lagos, Nigeria has this to say: “The death of Mcphillips Nwachukwu came as a rude shock to all of us in the Arts and Culture sector, not only because it was sudden and totally unexpected but also because it represented a monumental loss to the sector. Mcphillips was a brilliant, affable and hardworking journalist whose professional competence was incomparably outstanding.
He had passion for the journalism profession and the Arts. He devoted his life to portraying the best in journalism. He was a regular face in CBAAC’s numerous outings both at home and abroad doing what he knew best, giving coverage to cultural activities with passion and patriotic zeal. Mcphillips was also an author whose erudition cannot be missed in every page of his works.
“He will be sorely missed by all of us in the arts and culture sector. Our hearts go out to his immediate family, his lovely wife and daughter as well as his colleagues in the journalism profession.
We have lost a rare gem. May his gentle soul rest in perfect peace.”
It’s shocking – Anyakoroma
On his part, Executive Secretary/CEO of National Institute of Cultural Orientation, (NICO) Barclays F. Anyakoroma, said: “I received the news of the demise of Mcphillips Nwachukwu, the Art Editor of Vanguard with shock. It is quite devastating, considering the fact that I had known him for many years, and seen him rise to become the Arts Editor of Vanguard.
He was a young man who was very passionate about his job, as an arts journalist. His death further brings to the fore the urgent need for an insurance scheme for journalists in Nigeria. Our hearts go out to the family he has left behind. Since death is a necessary end, we can only pray for his gentle soul to rest in peace in the bosom of the Lord.”
I’ve lost a bright student – Prof. Ezeigbo
On her part, award winning author and supervisor to the late Nwachukwu, Prof. Akachi Ezeigbo said: “I am still reeling from the blow from the irreparable loss. Mcphillips was one of the brightest arts journalists this country has produced. He was committed and diligent at his job. The Vanguard has lost an excellent member of staff. I feel shattered because of my relationship with him.
He was like a son to me and I was supervising his interesting doctoral thesis at the University of Lagos. He was working in the area of Oral Literature. All that work has come to a halt now. He was also a talented poet. We will miss him in the English Department, especially the postgraduate section. I will miss his articles in The Vanguard. He will be sorely missed by the literature and art families that he served so faithfully. My deepest condolences to his lovely wife and the rest of his family. Dear Mcphillips, jee nkeoma.”
Oshinowo, Anikulapo, Tomoloju, others react
Renowned artist, Dr Kolade Oshinowo reacted thus: “Oh my God, Mcphillips dead! This is huge shock. What happened? He was a young man full of life. This is a big loss to the Art community and indeed the nation. Always smiling, ever so jovial, very hard working and very passionate about his work. We will miss him. May his gentle soul rest in peace.”
A statement by Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA) signed by Richard Ali, Publicity Secretary (North) read: “The National EXCO of the Association of Nigerian Authors is sad to hear of the passing of McPhillips Nwachukwu. He was a writer, veteran Arts Editor at the Vanguard Newspaper and a long term supporter of the Association. We commiserate with his family at this time of great and irreparable loss. Mr. Nwachukwu has been battling a debilitating kidney condition since 2005. He will be sorely missed.”
For Ben Tomoloju, “this is terrible. In fact, I don’t know what to say at the moment.”
On his part, Culture activist and former editor of Guardian on Sunday, Jahman Anikulapo, who was visibly touched by the news said, “deeply depressed by the horrific news of passing of my dear friend, colleague and broda, McPhillips Nwachukwu of Vanguard Newspaper. This is violence in its truest colour!”