By Emeka Obasi
When it rains it pours, that is the lot of All Progressives Congress stalwart, Chief Modestus Okechukwu Umenzekwe. Events began on February 26, with the demise of publicist and writer, Chief Uche Ezechukwu, followed by Princess Felicia Umenzekwe ( nee Ezechukwu) on March 2, and Dr. Vitus Ezechukwu on April 2.
It is pretty difficult to handle such situation in today’s Nigeria. Umenzekwe, Onwa of Achina in Aguata, lives in Lagos but will be forced to divide time between Lagos and Anambra State as he runs around preparing for funeral duties. That is the sad truth.
Umenzekwe is the only child of Princess Felicia Ihejiali Umenzekwe better known as ‘ Di bu Ndo.’ Chief Aloysius Uchenna Ezechukwu was her brother just like Dr. Vitus Nwabueze Ezechukwu, a former director at the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC).
The connection is interesting. Onwa’s father, also bore the name Ezechukwu. He was Nze Boniface Ezechukwumuanya Umenzekwe. The senior Umenzekwe died at 90 in 2017, while his wife died at 85. Nze was buried in March, his spouse also died in March.
The Ezechukwus hailed from Amesi while their sister got married to an Achina man. Uche Ezechukwu still found his way to Amesi where he attended St. Peter’s Secondary School before moving to Christ the King College (CKC) Onitsha. Also called Onukwube, the journalist graduated from the University of Nigeria Nsukka in 1979.
From a Roman Catholic background, Princess Felicia was not lettered in the formal sense of it. However, the wisdom she gained from her father, Igwe Ezechukwu’s court helped set up a thriving business in fabrics which also pushed her to the top of the community as leader of Women.
What their sister could not acquire from the classroom, the late Ezechukwu brothers achieved. Uche became an author and polyglot who mastered English, French, German as well as his mother tongue, Igbo. Nwabueze earned a doctorate.
They were all devout Catholics. Princess Felicia’s pontifical high mass will be celebrated by the Catholic Bishop of Ekwulobia Diocese, Dr. Peter Okpaleke on May 20. That comes up almost three weeks after Uche’s on May 1.
Chief Umenzekwe impresses me as a principled politician who has continued to forge ahead, maintaining ties and respecting the political leanings of other members of his maternal home. Anambra is an interesting political melting point.
Governor Willie Obiano belongs to the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA). Senators representing the state are of the Peoples Democratic Party while Dr. Chris Ngige, minister of Health carries the APC card. And Anambra has two APC ministers.
Uche Ezechukwu, shortly before departure, threw his weight behind Prof. Chukwuma Soludo’s gubernatorial ambitions under APGA platform. Chief Valentine Ozigbo is pursuing the same goal through PDP while Onwa Achina continues to drum support for APC.
Umenzekwe does not see any problem ahead. “Val Ozigbo is from my mother’s kindred and we relate very well. As for our divergent political movements, we manage it very well. Our eggs are not in one basket,” he told me. Ozigbo also made this clear in a powerful tribute to Ezechukwu.
Ezechukwu’s passage has continued to attract reactions. Many believe he saw death coming due to a post on his Facebook page about three weeks earlier. Following the death of media men like Prince Tony Momoh and Sam Ndah Isaiah,Ezechukwu posed a question demanding whose turn it would be next.
The media industry has been in mourning since late 2020. Prof. Emma Okocha, author of ‘Blood on the Niger,’ Jimanze Ego-Alowes, author of ‘ Economists as Assassins,’ Prince Usman Abudah, the Punch journalist who rejected Fela’s white envelope, they all departed.
Umenzekwe, a well heeled businessman, also writes. Regularly, he pens opinion in Sun, Nation, Telegraph or Authority. And these articles are quite revealing. Before the Second Niger Bridge started, I read from him that Buhari made a promise to Chief Chukwuma Azikiwe, to that effect.
I did not know Onwa had anything to do with Ezechukwu until he informed me of Princess Felicia’s death. That was also how I got to hear of the triple death that hit him. Ordinarily, I would have known through our mutual senior friend, Chief Joe Ifedobi, Okosisi of Akpo. Sadly, he died in 2019.
Ezechukwu worked with Dim Emeka Odumegwu Ojukwu and even wrote a book, ‘Ojukwu, the rebel I served’. He also wrote on Abacha: ‘ The Man and the Myth.’ In 2003, Onukwube worked with the Buhari Media team.
Ezechukwu was so close to Ojukwu and was one of those who insisted that Debe Sylvester Ojukwu was indeed, the first son of the Ikemba. He claimed that the Biafran general had him through an Udi woman.
It was as a result of the controversy that trailed Ojukwu’s Will in which Debe was not recognised as first son. That recognition was reserved for Emeka Junior. Onukwube faulted the Will and its contents. Debe died a sad man.
That Udi woman remains a mystery because Ojukwu was said to have married Elizabeth Okoli from Awka between 1956 and 1958. There was no child to show for it until they divorced. The woman’s dad was Nigeria’s first postmaster general.
Another version claims that Ojukwu’s first wife was a Ghanaian. That marriage could have come when he taught at the Military Academy, Teshie as a young captain. One of his students was Murtala Mohammed. Also in his class were Tim Onwuatuegwu and Christopher Anuforo.