By Biodun Busari
The apex Igbo socio-cultural organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide has described the former leader of the Northern Elders Forum (NEF), Chief Paul Iorpuu Unongo as “an apostle of excellence” while paying tribute to him.
Vanguard reported that Unongo, the first Secretary-General of the defunct Nigeria Peoples Party, died after a brief illness on Tuesday.
While condoling with NEF over Unongo’s demise, Ohanaeze described the octogenarian as a social crusader and political activist who stood for equity, justice and fairness.
He had a broad mind as a boy, and being an ardent supporter of Dr Nnamdi Azikwe, Unongo gave six shillings as financial support to the Zikist movement in 1946, according to the apex Igbo group.
Ohanaeze disclosed these in a statement Ohanaeze Ndigbo condoles Northern Elders Forum by its National Publicity Secretary, Dr Alex Ogbonnia on Thursday.
“Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide received with sadness the news of the death of a foremost Nigerian patriot, astute administrator, bridge builder, courageous and sagacious politician, moral edifice, elder-statesman, former minister of Power and Steel in the second Republic and former and the former Leader of the Northern Elders Forum (NEF) Chief Paul Iorpuu Unongo,” the statement read.
“Unongo was an embodiment of restructuring Nigeria for effective and efficient service delivery. On the other hand, while Unongo remained culturally and emotionally attached to his native Tiv ethnicity, he never lost his Northern orientation and the need for a sustainable relationship with the other parts of the country based on equity, justice and fairness.
“Unongo was an apostle of excellence, a social crusader and political activist. Unongo had recounted how as a small boy, he donated six shillings in support of the Zikist movement in 1946; based on his broad mind and convictions that Nigeria needed a cerebral pragmatic intellectual, he was to campaign for Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe to be elected a President of Nigeria in 1979.”
Further eulogising the former minister’s qualities, Ohanaeze said, “The dispositions, mutual toleration, elderly moderations of the Unongo quintessence in the Northern Elders Forum (NEF) have no doubt added profound values to the Nigerian democratic dispensation.
“One is left to guess the feelings of the Ohanaeze Ndigbo that Unongo has departed at a critical point his wise counsel is most needed.
“The President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide, Ambassador Professor George Obiozor recalls with intense nostalgia, his relationship with Dr Chuba Okadigbo, Chief Paul Unongo, Chief Aper Aku, Sen. J S Tarka, Chief Solomon Lar, among others during the Second Republic under President Shehu Shagari. Obiozor lamented that a foremost Nigerian patriot is gone.
“While the Ohanaeze Ndigbo and indeed the entire Ndigbo send our condolences to the immediate Unongo family; the Governor, Samuel Ortom and the good people of Benue State; the Paramount Ruler of the Tiv Nation, Tor Tiv, Prof. James Ayatse; Professor Ango Abdullahi and the Northern Elders Forum; and indeed the community of Nigerian patriots, it is our prayers that the Almighty will grant his soul an eternal rest in his bosom.”