BY EMEKA MAMAH
Former President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Amb. Ralph Uwechue, 79, is dead
Chief Uwechue, OFR, died at the National Hospital, Abuja, Thursday afternoon. He was said to have been ill since November last year.
Uwechue, former Ambassador to Liberia, and a former Publisher of the defunct African Today, was born at Ogwashi-Uku, Delta State in 1935. He attended St. John’s (Rimi) College, Kaduna from 1949-1954, as a foundation student and was retained as a teacher in the school for 18 months before proceeding for further studies.
He obtained a BA (Hons) degree in History from the University College, Ibadan, 1960 and a Diploma in International Law and French language, 1964, from the Geneva African Institute, Switzerland.
A career diplomat, Uwechue joined the Nigerian Foreign Service at its inception in 1960, and served in a number of countries, including Cameroun, Pakistan and Mali. He was Nigeria’s first diplomatic envoy to France, where he opened the Nigerian Embassy in Paris, 1966.
He also served with UNESCO in Paris as Consultant on “general History of Africa” project between 1967 and 1970, before he retired to private business in 1970, as Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of magazines and books on Africa, published in both English and French.
He was the founder and Editor-in-Chief of the KNOW AFRICA books- a three-volume encyclopaedia comprising, Africa Today, Africa Who’s Who and Makers of Modern Africa.
He later lectured on African Affairs for 10 years at the Royal College of Defence Studies, London, United Kingdom. As Ambassador Extraordinary and plenipotentiary, Uwechue has, since 1999, been the Special Presidential Envoy on Conflict Resolution in Africa to the Nigerian President, Olusegun Obasanjo. He played a key role in the peaceful settlement of the decade-long Sierra Leonean civil war, which culminated in free and fair elections in 2002.
In recognition of his “meritorious service to Black and African Peoples worldwide”, Uwechue was awarded an honorary membership of the “American Conference of Black Mayors” in 1982. In 2003, he was a recipient of the Order of Officer of the Federal Republic, OFR, conferred on him by then President Obasanjo.
He also held the prestigious Delta State ancient traditional titles-the Ogwuluzame of Ogwashi-Uku Kingdom and the Ochudo of Asaba and had five children.
Meanwhile, the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Emeka Ihedioha and the member representing Aniocha/Oshimili Federal Constituency, Mr. Ndudi Elumelu, have reacted to the deatH of Chief Uwechue.
In his tribute, Ihedioha, haD described Uwechue as a “quintessential statesman,” adding that his death was ‘’painful, unfortunate and regretful.”
Elumelu also said that ‘’the entire Igbo race has lost a great man and son,’’ saying he would be remembered for his mission to unite Igbo.’’