Chuks Onuoha, Umuahia
Testimony about the life of the dead while they lived is the true picture of their existence on earth, as recorded by their fellow mortals.
Mortals are of the belief that the Creator, God Almighty, relies on the accounts of man, over the existence of the departed to direct them either to the positive or negative eternity, as He alone determines, who goes where and why.
So, if truly the account of man is taken into cognizance by God to direct the departed to the side of eternity they will dwell forever, I can assuredly say here, that Elder Jonah Igbokwe Ekeoma is dwelling on the positive side of eternity.
The octogenarian slept on the Lord, on the early hours of July 25, 2019, and his funeral was held on Saturday, September 21, 2019, in his ancestral home in Igbere, Bende Local Government, Abia State.
Born in 1930, to the family of late Mazi Ekeoma Onwuchekwa and Oriaku Ikodiya Ekeoma, young Jonah was among the eight children the marriage produced, (six boys and two girls.) His father enrolled him into Igbere Central School for his primary education, a privilege not common in his time. But the joy of his being among the educated few in his community was cut short when his father withdrew him from school due to lack of funds.
He was sent to Aba to learn trade in clothing materials. As the first apprentice of his uncle, Mazi Elekwachi, he was to leave home early to the shop. He did this for just one month before he was sent to Kano, to sell garri and other food materials for his uncle. That experience in clothing business in Aba helped him to document his sales, incomes and expenditure and the business flourished.
Circumstances again made him to leave Kano for Aba, and while in Aba, he learnt tailoring business. His meeting with Chukwuka, an Enugu took him to Oturkpo, Benue State, where he lived with David, his brother.
His stay in Oturkpo was short-lived and he went back to Kano. From there, he moved to Kafanchan, Kaduna State, rented an apartment with another man and opened a food stuff business and was selling garri beans and onion which, all flourished.
On February 15, 1953, he had an encounter that gave him employment at the defunct Electricity Corporation of Nigeria (ECN). It was a turning point in his life as his supervisors saw him as great asset. He was later transferred to Oji River Power Station for the electrification of the Eastern Region.
He got married to Ori, the first daughter of Mazi Paul Abiaeye, in 1957. He was transferred to Enugu and later to Nkalagu as Headman. He was shuttling between the two towns. In 1959, he was transferred to Abakiliki, and in 1960, he lost his father, Onwichekwa.
But before the outbreak of the civil war, they were blessed with five children, three boys and two girls. He had to send his family home as the war continued while he stayed back to work and wait like others.
When the war became intense, he went back home to Igbere, where he discovered that his father’s house had been taken over by Nigerian soldiers, as many of the family members had run into the bush for safety. The children he sent home were getting sick and thin, as he joined the army to fight for the freedom of his family and future of his children and wards.
Jonah left home with his first son, Ikechukwu, and only returned shortly before the end of the war. His son had scars all over his body, having been exposed to psychological and physical trauma of the war. His other children were, however, lost to the harsh condition of the war. He resigned from ECN to become a contractor to the corporation.
The Octogenarian felt fulfilled. Until death came calling on that fateful morning of July 25, 2019, Elder Igbokwe was very strong in spirit, body and commitment. In one of the occasions when his first son visited him, he quietly passed a message of his demise to him in Igbere dialect.
The widow, Oriaku, said: “I had the opportunity of and rare privilege of being the wife and partner of a wonderful, loving, kind and hardworking man. Life could not have been better than that because I was living every woman’s dreams. We had our problems like every family, but making up and resolving our issues was magical.
“I was blessed with the best husband and father to my children. His life taught me unconditional love while his death taught me kindness. I am grateful that I had opportunity to share his dreams, hopes, love and friendship. He was a hero to all who knew him.”
Ikechukwu: “Dad was self-made and self-reliant. But he was stubborn of his convictions, he was meticulous and a perfectionist, and by the way, impeccable dresser. Summing up my father’s life, I keep coming back to one thought never will you meet a man who more faithfully lived his values. Dad never made an enemy, not any that I know.
“Only twice did I see my father cry, when four of my siblings died one after another. And after the civil war, when a Nigerian soldier abducted me as a trophy of war as we were trekking back to Igbere, then my father cried, telling him that I was his only surviving child out of five children. I always feel proud when people meet me and say I knew your father, he was a good man.”
Former governor of Imo State, Chief Ikedi Ohakim, said: “He impacted positively on all of us. The only regret I have is that he should have waited a little bit to enjoy more of the fruits of his labour. But be that as it may, we must all die at one time or the other.”
The funeral service was conducted at The Presybetarian Church of Nigeria, Onu Ibina Igbere. In his message, Rt. Rev. Nduu Okereke, who quoted Ezekiel 1:1-9, stated: “There are good and bad marks in the lives of people. These marks determine peoples’ roles and places in the society and hereafter. Of all marks that people carry, the mark of Jesus is the best, and Elder Jonah Ekeoma had this mark.”
He described the deceased as a man of integrity and urged the children to replicate that in the society: “ You should maintain the legacy that he left, legacy of truth and integrity, which the church can testify to.”
The roll call at the funeral included former Governor of Abia State and currently Senate Chief Whip, Dr Orji Uzor Kalu, represented by his younger brother, Chief Mascourt Uzor Kalu, Ohakim, Eze Jpseph Anyanta, Eze Okorie Chukwu, Eze Eme Chike, former Attorney General Chief S. O. Akuma, Prof and Mrs Ogwo Ekeoma Ogwo, Prof Chinedu Asidu Anosike, the Managing Director/Editor-in-Chief, The Sun, Mr Onuoha Ukeh, Sleek Ogbonnaya Ogwo, Chief Emeka Onuoha, Chief Jones Udeogu, Dr and Mrs Ojum Ogwo, Willy Amadi, Dr Madukwe Ukaegbu and Chief Charles Odunukwe.
Guests were entertained at the Princess Hotel, Igbere.