…Cries 90-yr-old mother of missing professor
(Aloysius Attah, ONITSHA)
For 90-year-old Mrs. Eunice Onyeka, a native of Inyaba Umudim Nnewi, Anambra State, the last 10 years have been filled with trauma and agony. If not for her unshaken Christian belief, the nonagenarian mother of seven would have waved goodbye to all the troubles of this earth that have been her lot in the past decade.
Take this major traumatic incident that happened to her, as an example: the first son, John Onyeka, a professor and former deputy vice chancellor, University of Jos, has been missing since August 18, 2006. Painfully Mama Eunice has been bearing the sudden loss of her first born and son with utmost hope that Johnie as he was fondly called will return to her embrace someday, as she has passionately laid hold on the passage in the Bible, which says, “With God all things are possible.”
But part of her pain over the sudden disappearance of Johnie was that she has also not set her eyes on his three children (her grandchildren) Chuboy, Uju and Kelechi. This situation, she alleged, was caused by her daughter-in-law, Johnie’s wife and mother of the children, Ethel.
But it is not only these two ugly situations that she is battling with at present, because of recent, Ethel and her children just drew a battle line by seeking the arrest of Okonobi Onyeka, Johnie’s immediate younger brother and second son of Eunice for what they termed the criminal selling of Johnie’s property and non-accountability of rents collected from the properties by Okonobi and his other brothers.
When Sunday Sun reporter encountered Mama Eunice Onyeka last week, she spoke as a woman of faith, expressing the hope that her son would return home one day before her death.
Going down memory lane to talk about her beloved son, Mama Eunice said: “I gave birth to him in Nsukka and raised him there too. Ethel is his wife. It was his father who arranged the marriage of my son to Ethel. It got to a stage that my spirit began to talk to me that all was not well. That was when they started telling me that my son was missing. Even till now, I’m yet to come to terms with the situation but I know that the other wives married into the family sent message to Ethel to come home and explain to them the situation that led to the disappearance of Johnie but she didn’t come.
The family and kindred reported to the palace of Igwe Nnewi, and an invitation was sent to her, all to no avail. My husband’s health began to fail and he kept asking for Johnie. All that is happening now makes me very sad but I’m waiting on my Jesus to do something.
“I know the story of Joseph in the bible, who was sold into slavery while his brothers lied to Jacob their father that he had been killed by a wild beast but he later came home. I’m waiting for John to come home and tell me what happened to him. It pains me that my husband died without setting eyes on John or any of his family members. I’ve also heard that the whole children are now married but I’ve never set my eyes on them, neither was I officially informed. It is not in my power to curse anybody but I don’t think that somebody who intentionally deprived her mother-in-law the joy of enjoying her grandchildren and her son will be rewarded positively,” she lamented.
The man Johnie Onyeka and his mysterious disappearance
Born in 1948, Johnie was the first son of Godson and Eunice Onyeka from Umudim Nnewi, Anambra State but who lived most of their productive years in the university town of Nsukka. He went to school partly at Nsukka and London for his junior fellowship and also lectured briefly at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka before transferring his services to University of Jos where he was Deputy Vice Chancellor, Academics.
He got married to Ethel Ada Onyeka nee Anazodo and they had three children. As at the time he got missing on August 18, 2006, he lived alone in Jos with a cook while his wife and their only daughter, Uju lived in Abuja. His two sons were in the university but lived off campus.
According to family sources, Prof. Johnie was billed to travel to Makurdi on Saturday, August 19, 2006, with his friend who is now a top shot at the National Human Rights Commission, Abuja, supposedly to collect money for some contract jobs they executed for the Benue State University. He was last seen on Friday evening on August 18, 2006, during a service of songs in honour of the wife of a staff of Unijos. He was there till the service ended about 9pm when he was said to have left for home. The next morning, he supposedly travelled to Makurdi for the business trip but till today has not returned.
Frantic search, twists and turns
Johnie’s younger sister, Mrs Amara Udechukwu, a school principal, in a tear-evoking account recounted the whole scenario to Sunday Sun, alleging that the uncooperative attitude of Johnie’s wife, Ethel started long time ago and left much to be desired.
“Johnie is my elder brother and is a very quiet man that wouldn’t want to hurt even a fly. It was not his intention to leave Nsukka for Jos but it was the wife that influenced him into that decision, probably to take him far away from us.
When they settled down in Jos, he secured admission for the wife to read Law in the university but we were surprised that after her graduation as a lawyer, she left our brother in Jos and relocated to Abuja.
“I was coming back from the Principal’s conference in Abuja precisely on August 18, 2006, when my phone started ringing continuously. It was a distress call from my husband notifying me that my daughter who was also in school in Jos called that they had been calling Johnie’s phone line but it was unreachable. I was confused and dialed his two numbers but both were switched off and we became so worried.
“When I came back, I summoned my siblings and after prayers, I called Ethel over the development but she felt so unconcerned about the whole thing. When I called her again to notify her that my siblings were coming over to Jos to find out what was amiss, she dismissed them. They were treated so shabbily and she frustrated every effort of us to make any headway in the search for Johnie.
“Ethel later came home but instead of seeing my mother or we the siblings of her husband, she went to our uncle Geofrey Onyeka and told him that she had searched for Johnie for one month without success and would be returning to Abuja to face her work. My uncle told her to go and see Johnie’s mum but she shunned all of us. Since 2006 till now, we’ve never set eyes on her and the children.”
Amara also told Sunday Sun that through their consistent efforts and petition to the police, some arrests were made and the matter over Johnie’s disappearance was charged to court but the wife frustrated every of their efforts. Johnie’s brothers, Okonobi and Benjy also corroborated this account.
“She went as far as sending her daughter who was a witness in the matter to London to ensure that the truth never came out and in the course of further investigation, the police arrested one Emeka Anyaegbunam, who was found in possession of Johnie’s phone and it was later discovered that Emeka was a close friend of Johnie’s son. It got to a stage that a private lawyer through the efforts of Igbo community in Jos led by Chief Ejimbe was hired to apply for fiat and take over the prosecution but painfully, our wife refused to append her signature for the prosecution.
Johnie’s father dies heartbroken, children, wife shun all invitation
Sunday Sun gathered that at the early stage of Johnie’s disappearance, the family members kept the reality of the news away from Godson, his aged father for obvious reasons.
According to the family, the old man loved Johnie so much and was so tender hearted unlike his wife who God gave a natural shock absorber to endure certain calamities. When he kept asking for Johnie’s whereabouts, he was initially told that he travelled abroad on sabbatical leave to keep his mind away from the reality.
While waiting, the family said they repeatedly summoned Johnie’s wife and children to come home so that they could form a united formidable force in the search for him but they failed to honour all invitations.
In one of the letters made available to Sunday Sun, dated May 21, 2008 and signed by Okonobi, David, Christopher, Olisakwe, Charles and Eddie all of Onyeka family and addressed to Chuboy and KC requesting for a meeting on June 14, 2008, the family noted with concern “That since the unfortunate disappearance of Prof Johnie Onyeka, you the children of Johnie and the large Onyeka family have not been able to have a formal meeting to share our views and ideas as to the way forward. The disappearance of your father for nearly two years now is an open wound on our hearts and we look forward to seeing you on the said date.”
Another letter signed by the Palace Secretary of the Obi Ezenwolie family of Inyaba Umudim Nnewi dated August 10, 2008, also invited Johnie’s children to “a serious prayer meeting” that took place on August 28 and 29, 2008 at the Obi Ezenwolie palace to ask for divine intervention in the search for the missing Prof John Onyeka, but Sunday Sun gathered that the children shunned all the invitations.
After waiting for so long, Pa Godson Onyeka died in 2010, four years after Johnie got missing. The burial and funeral ceremony eventually took place without Johnie’s wife and children participating in any capacity.
Battle over property ensues as Okonobi gets arrest notice
Recently, Chuboy Onyeka (Johnies’s first son) through his lawyers wrote to the tenants at Onuiyi, Nsukka, a house said to have been bequeathed to Johnie by his late father in his will, which has been managed by Okonobi, Johnie’s younger brother since their father’s demise. The lawyer on behalf of Chuboy told the tenants to stop further payments to Okonobi since the house had been willed to Johnie who is now late/missing, directing the tenant that they should begin to pay to Chuboy who had assumed ownership of the property by inheritance.
The lawyer also wrote to Okonobi, threatening legal action if he failed to remit all he had received as house rent from the property and also refund money he collected from selling another portion of land belonging to Johnie.
But when Sunday Sun reporter took up the issues with Okonobi, he expressed surprise that the boys had the audacity to take such actions why they fled home and severed every communication with their family all these years.
His words: “Far from repeating all that my brother and sisters have said, we’ve not had rest since 2006 my elder brother got missing. All the humiliation we suffered in Jos through Ethel and her outright refusal that her children would not be part of us in the search for John. Our dad kept on asking after Ethel and the children but the woman refused to allow the children to come home. After all our efforts to make them reason with us failed, my father wrote a will and gave some properties to John naturally as his first son but he made it clear to me that I should hold Johnie’s share as the next surviving male and on no account should I release it until Johnie comes home. Our dad made it clear that he won’t tolerate a situation whereby Johnie’s wife or the children would later on come and lay claim to his own property, which he willed to John while they never bothered about him when he was alive. When our father died, I made sure that they were informed but Ethel and the children never came home but I could remember that we participated fully when she lost her own father. I could also remember that Johnie went missing two months after he threatened to divorce Ethel for abandoning him in Jos for Abuja.
“It was the same situation when we heard that Chuboy and KC also got married without our involvement.
They also went as far as giving out the only daughter in the family in marriage without us. It was the same act that made them connive with our half brother to photocopy our father’s will and went to read the contents to the tenants in Nsukka. Abomination!”
WHEN Sunday Sun finally contacted Johnie’s wife, Ethel, after several attempts, she fumed saying that the Onyeka family were being economical with the truth. She accused the family of being wicked and evil and also said she had no regret giving out her daughter in marriage without them because they had never cared about her and the children.
“I don’t want to say everything now but you should just ask them whether Papa was aware that Johnie was missing. I don’t want to join issues with them. The problem is that Papa wrote a will before he died and gave out some properties to my husband but they went ahead and sold the property. It’s over nine years that my husband got missing but I’ve kept quiet all the while. I didn’t even know that there was a will until one of their half brothers brought it to our attention. There is something wrong with all of them but all I know is that God will judge all of us. Ask Okonobi and their mother whether they know any of my children? They don’t ask after us but we thank God that the children have been raised and are now doing well.
“I’ve not seen them for a long time and my son doesn’t even know them. In fact, my son just called Okonobi recently when he was planning for his wedding. Ask them why they are selling their brother’s property, who is missing?”
When the reporter reminded her that the same accusation about abandoning them was the same thing the family also complained of, she said: “I came to Nnewi when Johnie got missing but they prevented me from seeing Papa. I don’t discuss Johnie and I don’t go to them to beg for money so what is their problem? Their anger is that we have come to take our possession and they are not happy. When the incident happened, my children were young but they have grown now and have come to claim what belongs to them.”
When the reporter also contacted Chuboy for comments, he said that the issue is a long story and told the reporter that the family members hated his mum for a long time before now. He promised to relay more information to the reporter at a later date.
We shall continue searching for Johnie till the end – Johnie’s uncle
Johnie’s uncle, Francis Onyeka who spoke to Sunday Sun from his base in London lamented the turn of events in the whole situation. He expressed surprise that instead of joining hands to unravel the mystery surrounding Johnie’s disappearance, the issue of property is being talked about even when the wife and children have severed every relationship with the Onyeka family. He said that the family had put forward a N5 million reward for anybody who would give a clue towards unraveling the mystery surrounding his disappearance. Francis stressed that he would never have rest until Johnie was found and advised Johnie’s children to come home and identify with their roots instead of acting from outside.