A little boy sat by as his father ironed his clothes with a coal iron. There was no electric power at that time, it was a distant luxury to expect such things in a war-ravaged nation. Some people, about three or four, walked into the place, an open space commonly known as obi or ibari, in Igboland, and announced their mission. The little boy barely understood what they said, but the implication was that they had come to conscript his father into a war that was raging at the time. They told him to go inside the house, pack a few things and join them. He was bewildered. He stared at his little son and took another look at the soldiers and moved to get this things. The little boy let out a yell that literally startled everyone, including another soldier who joined the team. Many years later, the little boy was told that he yelled down the hearts of the soldiers and they did not conscript his father into the civil war. In any case, the man was already in charge of the security of his village. So, he was also working at the other end of the warfront. He survived the war and so did some of his children born at that time. He had more children after the war. He always enthused that surviving the war meant he would live long. He did.
I was that near toddler and Chief Lucius Ewuzie was the man.
Today, I pay tribute to my own Man of All Times. He was called to glory on October 24, 2016. He was nearly prophetic about his death. When I visited him some months ago in Aba, Abia State, where he lived virtually all his life, there was no sign of death anywhere on the horizon. He talked about the prospects of another birthday thanksgiving in the church. At his 90th, his children threw a big bash in the village. He was so glad and told those in attendance that the event had added to his life. He lived another three years. When the end came, or he knew it had come, he kept insisting on seeing his children. He would call me and say,”You do not want to come and see me. OK, I am here, come when you want.” “But you are ok sir,” I would say. “If you say so,” he would reply.
Then he made the call that broke the camel’s back: “If you do not come to see me now, only God knows if you will ever see me alive.”
I scampered out of Lagos. When I arrived Aba, the man whose voice was strong on the phone, had begun to vegetate. He now spoke in incomprehensible two-letter words. We took him to the hospital where doctors said diabetes, an ailment he had managed in the past three decades or thereabouts, had returned with greater ferocity. They brought the sugar level down. He became stable but still inaudible. There was remarkable improvement. On one of the days I went to see him, he said he wanted to say something to me and later changed his mind, saying he would speak later.
I headed back to lagos. Then the phone call came. The inevitable had happened. Paaapa, as we fondly called him, had transited from this plane. I would only be left with guesses about what he wanted to say.
He lived a good and fairly long life. He was not one to waste his time making trouble with anyone. He would not split hair over issues that add nothing other than massage the ego. He taught his children the virtues of a living in peace. He avoided trouble as much as he could. But he did not run away from inevitable fights.
During the civil war he took charge of the internal security of his village and did a good job of supervising security men and facing attacks.
The man had humble beginnings and was barely a teenager when his father passed away. He was an only son who faced threats of extinction by people who wanted to wipe out his lineage and have his inheritance on their lap. But he survived it, courtesy of his only sister, who took him away to live with her husband. It is a near-miracle that an only son who merely escaped death has become the patriarch of a family that has extended beyond his imagination. He waited for years, in spite of early marriage, for children. He remained steadfast and God showed up for him. One tree eventually sprouted many branches . He pulled himself up by the bootstraps. He did virtually all he could lay his hands on to keep body and soul together. He craved education but it was a far cry from what his uncles could give. He was among the first people from his village to live in Aba, Abia State. It was such that people from his town would come to Aba and begin to tell those at the motor park that they were going to his house and they had no address of the place!
He was not a man of great means but he had the great virtue of contentment. He always told us that better days were ahead. If you did not buy a good car today, you could buy a better one tomorrow.
He believed in ‘live and let live.’ That philosophy guided most of his life.
The curtain has fallen on this side and I pray he continues in the next. The journey begins on Thursday, December 8, 2016, with a wake keep in his compound and a funeral service and interment the next day.
We bid you farewell, man of peace. May your soul rest in the bosom of the Lord.