By Chuka Momah
My very dear uncle, Honourable Justice Eugene Chukwuemeka Ubaezonu, personified greatness in the truest meaning of the word. He was quintessentially a good man with rare gifts of emotional intelligence, empathy and introspection. He was kind and generous with his time, resources and attention, and these, to all and sundry and not just to family members.
He was a man of unsurpassable gravitas, substance and presence. No matter the situation, he had the unusual grace of imperturbability. Even when others would be depressed, frazzled and anxious, my delightful uncle would remain as cool as a cucumber – logical, analytical and philosophical to the very end. Indeed, he was a citadel of emotional stability and fortitude. These qualities would prove to be of immense benefit when my uncle lost his mother, his siblings and his exceptional son, Chukwudifu. Indeed, my irrepressible and irreplaceable uncle had a magnificent and illuminating temperance of the will and vigour of the imagination.
My uncle was hugely successful in whatever endeavour he chose to engage in, but the practice of law particularly fascinated him. It is common knowledge to all and sundry that in this direction, he was massively successful both in private practice and as an erudite and brilliant justice of the Court of Appeal. Indeed, he was the quintessential legal luminary.
He was a citizen of the world – widely read and widely travelled. He was a man of class, finesse, sophistication and decency. He was a cosmopolitan gentleman who never lost the common touch. He contributed immensely to our town Nnewi. In just recognition of his profound contributions to our hometown, he was fittingly adorned with the title, “Agba Nnewi,” which saddled him with the official responsibility of being the spokesperson for Nnewi.
My very dear uncle (who was more like a second father to all his nieces and nephews) was one of the last of the Mohicans – one of the last of a vanishing breed.
I have too many fond memories of this quite exceptional gentleman. He was a source of inspiration to all of us members of his family. He was a pillar of support to all of us.
His brother and sisters (he was the youngest) were not gifted with longevity here on earth. As if in divine compensation, Almighty God gave my uncle a long sojourn here on earth. And he made it count. Absolutely! What a life!! And what a man!!!
He is already reunited in heaven with his legendary parents, his brilliant son, Chukwudifu, his sisters – Chinazo, Christiana, Sylvina, Maudline (my mother who died aged 47 years) and his elder brother, Alex Ubaezonu. I grew up from the age of five in the care of Uncle Alex Ubaezonu who was the Acting Principal of Oduduwa College, Ile-Ife (my parents were then living in the northern part of the country). It was from there that I gained admission to Government College Ibadan. In fact, I was living with my uncle’s mother, the family matriarch, Margery, but joined Uncle Alex when she passed away.
”To live in hearts we leave behind is not to die.” So wrote Thomas Campbell – 1777-1814 – in his incomparable and transcendental poem, “Hallowed Ground.”
With “Agba Nnewi” in mind, Campbell was consolingly right. And indeed, we must all be consoled by this fact.
Henry Wandsworth Longfellow, the great poet, intoned that “Lives of great men all remind us, we can make our lives sublime and departing, leave behind us footprints in the sands of time.” Indeed, my legendary uncle left indelible footprints in the sands of time.
As Iran’s magical, mystic poet, Omar Khayyam (who died in AD 1123) wrote, “The moving finger writes, and having writ, moves on, nor all thy piety nor wit shall lure it back to cancel half a line. Nor all your tears wash out a word of it.”
May God Almighty grant us all family members especially our aunty (his lifelong companion) with whom he shared so many fulfilling years, the emotional equanimity to accept the fact of his transition.
Rest in peace my dearest uncle. Rest in peace great man. It was indeed, a pristine privilege to have experienced your uplifting and endearing avuncular nexus.
Here truly was a Caesar. Whence cometh another?!
It is definitely not hagiographical but comprehensively true to say that they don’t make them like Hon. Justice Eugene Chukwuemeka Ubaezonu anymore!
Go home in a blaze of glory, for you sure did a lot of good. Oh yes, you sure did a lot of good!
May flights of Angels sing you to your well deserved rest.