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TRIBUTE: SONNY IWEDIKE ODOGWU: THE END OF AN ERA

“The people behind and below cannot see as far as the Leaders. Their feet hurt, the children are crying and the old ones are sick. But they must march; they are compelled to go; they cannot choose the way themselves.

Emma Okocha, introducing the late Patriach of the Jacksons, Joseph Jackson to Chief Sonny Odogwu, Washington DC 1998, after signing for the 50 million dollars Jackson family Nigerian Concert Tour.

Their only choice is, the choice of Leaders, who will direct the way for them. … from their heights they have a wider view of the horizon”

See Theodore H. White, The Making of the President, Washington, May 1st, 1965.

The history of the past centuries is replete with glowing examples of men who brought distinct changes to the growth of civilization. These select few regarded as the MASTERS, chose the correct messages and exigent timeliness, and arrested universal appeal by their presence and works. These charismatic actors with their performances controlled the people etching their foot prints in the sands of time.

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The audience boiling with expectations was catapulted into frenzy as the MASTERS ascend the last stages of human eminence. Where there are gods, they were next to the gods, and where the environment abhorred the worship of the deity, they played God.

Hence most of the dominant historical figures were men of Letters and Legends of the Theatres, Scientist, Writers and Business Moguls.

Before his death in May, 15 1446, the genius who inspired Leonardo de Vinci’s “Canon of Proportion” and Michelangelo’s “David” established himself as  the seminal figure of the Renaissance when his revolutionary architectural design and engineering created the largest dome ever known to man. Florence’s Duomo construction was the fifteenth century technological equivalent of putting a man in the moon.

Before Filippo Brunelleschi, the Greeks built monuments and did not create   spaces, the Roman architecture created space with the arch and dome but it was Brunelleschi’s ground breaking impact that invented the way of representing and controlling a three-dimensional object in space.

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Sonny Iwedike  Odogwu, the Ide Ahaba who died some few days ago was not an ingenious engineer of the Capomaestro dimensions of Brunelleschi.

However, like the latter, Sony Odogwu was gifted with the sublime mind that belonged to the  Renaissance leaders, faithful to their goals and died achieving  their  mission on earth.

Son to a cosmopolitan Customs Officer, he started life as a trader, played music, was a designer, architect, builder, a football and tennis buff. After his return from the United Kingdom, was a pioneer Nigerian Insurance broker beating the European companies and was offered the premium contract to insure the Nigerian Railways.

That was his first breakthrough as the then Railways was as big and its octopus operations could be compared to today’s NNPC operations. Iwedike became a millionaire in his twenties!

When very few ran their own companies, Sonny Odogwu was the boss of his own Insurance company and was proud to escort you to his starting shop inside the popular Balogun market in Lagos.

Sonny Odogwu’s captivating effervescence and charm were products of his epicurean lifestyle. He had worked hard as a young man and since Ilesha where he attended his High School, Ide was a consummate Lagos boy, fluent  in Yoruba and was like them preferred  the Yoruba and the French ‘Joie de Vivre’ way of life. The Italians on the other hand, especially the Mafia in Sicily live the “La dolce Vita”, the intense sweet soulful life.

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You can breathe that fast life style in the way the family celebrates the Italian wedding, the Italian wine served with the peppered salmon; then  the unforgettable Italian women, their  over throwing sexy evening dresses, the kisses, as celebrants, the family rise to dance and entertain their guests.

Therefore, as the established Jeffersonian epicurean of his generation, Sonny Odogwu at his prime’ invited the Italians and instructed them to design and build the Ide Ahaba Villa, one of the one thousand and one Architectural wonders of the modern world! In the Anioma world there are only three other residential domos that match the Ide Villa. The Nuel Ojei castle at Isselle-Uku and the Africa House, Ogwashi –Ukwu!

“Dolce Vita” was his craze and to enjoy the best of life influenced his Roman wedding to his beautiful sweet heart Adaobi, Teresa Ibik in Rome, 1953.

The Iwedike Odogwu’s underlining legacy debunks the genocidal waste that buried Asaba following the carthaginization of the Delta capital city by the Nigerian Second Division, October 7 1967.

His work and his legacies, represent the brilliant efflorescence and strident resurging of the dying mouth-watering traditions and the dance culture of the Enu ani peoples. When Asaba was wiped out; Ishiagu’s Royal father was buried alive, Ogwashi-Ukwu’s Onukwu seven brothers tied to a stake and shot before their mother, Igbodo disseminated and the Ubulu Kingdoms silently bludgeoned; it was Iwedike that returned from Biafra and wiped out their tears.

As the founder and the leader of the Bendel West Peoples Assembly, he financed and encouraged the Enu-ani beautiful cultural dance music groups to boldly step out at Ogbe stadium, at the National Theatre ; and saw to it that our people sentenced the international audience to tearful sexual catharsis when the Aguba and Idegbani took over the stage  during the 1977 National Festival of Arts.

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Sonny Odogwu was concerned that the few remaining Asaba youths may be heading to nowhere if the Asaba stadium, a killing zone was left to rot away, after the war. Without any much promptings he was the sole financier who saved that stadium which is bigger than Ogbe and Warri stadia. That stadium resumed play and in the ’70s and ’80s was hosting Asabatex FC one of the greatest First Division clubsides, that produced Thompson Usiyan, Nigeria’s greatest striking No. 9 of all times .

My own brother Benedict “Acid” Okocha, Prince Ezediuno, Okonji and the late Ejiofor of Ogbeosowa, played for Asabatex. Asaba stadium was deliberately prevented from hosting matches and other Athletic competitions by ethnic bigots until now.

Without any compensations whatsoever to the people, Asaba stadium is now Stephen Keshi and the spirit of Ide Ahaba and our people rejoice with Okowa for his courage and say it all: Asaba is now the Mecca of sports and football in Nigeria!

From whichever angle we lead to define the life and times of this fallen Ide tree, we submit that Iwedike worked for his dreams, struggled with his demons, uniquely forging those triumphs with his failures into such a boiling furnace; acquiring such an elusive distinction that lighted the path and would after him continue to inspire the students of the Sonny Odogwu book of life. Very few of mankind as noted by Philospher Spinoza, acquire that proximate quality which dictates that “a man can be an adequate cause of his own history”

Sonny Iwedike Odogwu as I prepare to join the brothers from Scotland Africans, Nigerians, Anioma and the Igbo Nation…. to say goodbye, I resolve as I had promised you during our last meeting at your Grand (which goes with   my moniker… the Paradise on the Niger)…. that your rich legacies would be protected.

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When you were around, you approved the Nnebisi hall for me to celebrate in Asaba the General Ojukwu’s Memorial, Col C.D. Nwawo’s Funeral rites etc…As you ascend to the heavens, Emma Okocha is going to join others to give Ide Ahaba the greatest funeral the like, nobody has ever seen or known on the Niger.

IDE AHABA,Ya ga zie, Ijeoma, Komesia.


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