By Nwabueze Okonkwo
ONITSHA – Literary icon and co-author of Eze Goes to School, late Odinigwe Onuora Joseph Nzekwu has been buried in Onitsha, Anambra State, by members of his Agbalanze Society, in a haze of glory. Nzekwu, pioneer general manager of the News Agency of Nigeria, NAN, was committed to mother earth amidst tight security, following the temporary relocation of his wife, Mrs Justina Nzekwu, to her paternal home, before the arrival of her husband’s corpse from the mortuary for interment, declining to make public, the major reason for her relocation.
However, her third female child, Mrs. Laura Adiorah, attributed her mother’s relocation from her matrimonial home to her paternal home, to the lingering traditional dispute in Onitsha and expressed satisfaction that her father was buried according to Onitsha custom and tradition. Other family sources also said that Mrs. Nzekwu’s troubles arose because, her elder brother, Chief Arthur Mbanefo was currently embroiled in a legal battle with the Obi of Onitsha-in Council in a bid to retrieve his Oduship title.
Mbanefo was de-robed, ostracized and his title transferred to one of his cousins, some years ago by the Obi-in-Council, hence Mrs. Nzekwu, was asked to relocate in order to allow the Onitsha people and members of Agbalanze society to which her late husband belonged to perform his burial.
According to Onitsha tradition, the widow had two options of either staying put in her matrimonial home and prevent the Agbalanze members from burying her husband because of her blood relationship with Mbanefo or relocate to her paternal home and allow them to bury her husband as tradition and culture demanded.
Mrs. Nzekwu declined comments on her reason for relocating from her matrimonial home to her paternal home, shortly after members of the Agbalanze society had performed her late husband’s burial rites, in line with Onitsha custom and tradition, saying that it was purely a family affair. She, however, noted that she missed her lovely husband who she said had never raised his hand on her throughout his lifetime, adding that they only had arguments on issues and settled them amicably soon after.
“I took very good care of him during his life time and he acknowledged and appreciated it. So, I had no quarrel with him but my reason for relocating to my paternal home today being his burial date was as a result of family reasons,” she further said.
Chief Arthur Mbanefo, a one-time chairman of state and local government creation committee during the late Gen. Sani Abacha’s military regime that culminated in the creation of six additional states in the country, including Ebonyi and Bayelsa and his younger brother, Engr. Charles Mbanefo, a one-time national president of Nigerian Society of Engineers, NSE, in their reactions, said the burial ceremony had never given them time to sit down and ask their sister the reasons why she returned home early that burial day, adding that they took it to be in line with tradition and custom of Onitsha people.
The Mbanefos described the late Nzekwu as a lovely brother, friend, neighbour and in-law who lived an exemplary life worthy of emulation. Mrs. Kate Popoola, Head of Lagos Operations, NAN who represented the NAN management at the ceremony, described the late Nzekwu as an intellectual, having worked under him before his retirement, adding that during his days at NAN, he usually paid salaries of outstation staff first before paying himself and his management staff; an indication that he maintained the philosophy of “others before I.”
Late Nzekwu’s only male child, Olisa, said his father brought all of his children (himself and five daughters) up in a unique way, pointing out that all of them were comfortable in their various homes.