From Jeff Amechi Agbodo, Onitsha
The Uke Community in Idemili North Local Government Area of Anambra State was in a cultural carnival mood with the last Ofala celebration of the former monarch, Igwe Godfrey Nwabufo Ezeude. He was crowned in 1995 and joined his ancestors in 2011.
He had single-handedly brought electricity to the community in 1989, which made his predecessor, Igwe W.I. Ileka to honour him with chieftaincy title of Ezeanyawunawaluora 1 of Uke in 1990.
And when he joined his ancestors, Igwe Ezeude was crowned the traditional ruler of Uke due to his contribution to the development of the town.
Until his departure, Igwe Ezeude’s company, Olive Foundation Nigeria Limited, was the largest importer of Chinese general goods in Nigeria and he later established a battery manufacturing plant in Lagos in 2003 called Tiger Head Battery.
The Ezeude family rolled out fully to make the last outing of their deceased son a grand event. All popular masquerades, traditional troupes and music of Igbo land that depict royalty and good cultural grounding featured at the event just as many prominent people came from far and near to grace the occasion. It was a good opportunity for the Uke people and Idemili to showcase their rich culture.
Brother to the former Igwe, Obi Ezeude, said: “When a traditional ruler joins the ancestors in our community, we quietly and peacefully hold the rites of passage for him. In another one year or thereabouts, we celebrate his last Ofala to tell the public that he had joined his ancestors that is what we are doing today.
“With his departure and last Ofala, we now have a closure of his chapter as the Igwe of Uke and a new chapter will open in the community. The town would any moment from now define its future. After the last Ofala, the town union and the elders will begin the process of selecting the new Igwe based on the tradition of the community.
“And our community, Uke, being a peaceful place, I am sure it will handle everything that follows peacefully for the future of the people, and especially for the good memory of my brother, the former monarch who lived, worked and acted for the peace, unity and progress of Uke.”
Son of the late Igwe, Prince Charles, described his father as a good man, a brilliant industrialist, a fine leader, who loved his people and treated everybody fairly. He noted that his father’s life was like a garden, saying that he lived a blessed existence, and was a father any son could ever have and cherish in life.
One of his wives, Chika, said she was still in shock over the death of his loving husband who meant everything to her: “Time hasn’t healed my pain at all or quietened my fears, so every night alone in the house, I shed those silent tears. No farewell words were spoken, no time to say goodbye. He was gone before I knew it and only God knows why He took his life suddenly. I really miss him.”
His daughter, Mrs. Olive Uzoma Chukwudi, said his father was loved by many yet misunderstood: “My dad was very kind, loving and had always made me feel special whenever I was around him. He was hard working relentless in his drive to be the best at everything he did even when no one else understood. I miss him so much and I have asked so often why did he leave us the way he did. I wish he would have lived to 90 years to see his grandchildren.”
A sister to the late Igwe, Prof (Mrs.) Regina Obi, described the late Igwe as a compassionate: “He was extremely loving, compassionate, merciful, patriotic, helper of the needy, destitute, and the poor in all ramifications without any discrimination; relations and non-relations, world-wide. My brother’s short life on earth was full of indelible legacies, goodness, mercy and challenges. His remarkable efforts, contributions and achievements are recorded and cannot be in vain.”
Eldest son in the family, Iyke Ezeude (Okeoshimili II N’Uke) said he called his late brother Banquo, which brings back the fond memories of their early years, saying that both saw the risk their dad Chief Emmanuel Nnadi Ezeude took for the benefit of Uke during his days then at the Idemili North Council head office, Ogidi.
He said that their dad never gave up but attracted a postal agency and health center to Uke: “Our dad was a warrior, just like Banquo who never shied away from battle. He was largely unappreciated or at best under appreciated by Uke. His life was cut short by enemies of progress. The consolation is that he died for his pet project which I christened, ‘Anything for Uke› in his office in Lagos.