Let us go back in time to the evening of June 9, 2020. While putting finishing editorial touches to the Democracy Edition of The Pacesetter Frontier Magazine which was planned to be released on June 12, 2020, I received a call from my father, H.R.H Eze Barr Igwesi O. Igwesi.
My father, who had taken to farming as one of his ventures, had called to let me know that his car broke down around Obeagu community, as he made his way back to his palace in Omuoha, Obuoffia from the farm.
My father’s inclination to always call me in times such as what was at hand wasn’t lost on me. Perhaps he had a strong, unrevealed belief in me to always, promptly step up to the matter and get it done, and although working on seeing the magazine released exactly on June 12, 2020 was a priority, I just couldn’t bear the thought of leaving him out there and not being the usual me. By the time he called back to tell me not to bother coming again since his mechanic was on the way, I was already some minutes close to where his car broke down.
Fast forward to 36 minutes later, I arrived at Obeagu-Amechi Road, precisely the junction leading to the palace of the Traditional Ruler of Obeagu Uno Autonomous community, HRH Igwe Linus Okafor, a fine gentleman. I got to know that he is a successful businessman based in Jos; Ah! the typical Igbo man and his pan-Nigerian mindset again. Let’s not wander too far joor; my father’s car, according to the mechanic’s diagnosis wasn’t going to be fixed that evening so the only available option was to push it into Igwe’s Palace so that the next day, the mechanic would fix it. The only problem was that the car was an SUV and the gate leading to Igwe Okafor’s Palace was up a slight hill.
While thinking of what to do, we noticed a locked church compound across the road and a residential building with its gate slightly ajar, adjacent the church. I approached the compound to speak to the owner to permit us push in and park the car till the next day.
“Cast your Bread upon waters, for after many days you will find it again.” Those were the words of King Solomon. As at the time I took decision to enter that compound, I didn’t know that I would see those words play out just as it was written. When I got into the compound and knocked, a woman, whom I guess was in her mid or late fifties answered and asked what I wanted. I thought it necessary to speak the beautiful Nkanu dialect to see if it would water the ground for the request I was about to make.
I introduced myself as Onochie and recanted my father’s experience with his car and all that had happened till that moment but to my chagrin she said “No”. She said “Daddy” referring to her husband, wasn’t around and as such she couldn’t decide alone.
Thinking about it in hind sight, she displayed the nature of a well bred, traditional Igbo woman who would never attempt to usurp her husband’s powers without getting a nod of approval (Exhales), Nwanyi bu Ife. I left to tell my father and he decided to speak to her by himself. He introduced himself as Obi Igwesi. The moment the woman heard “Igwesi”, she asked “Is it the Igwesi from Obuoffia?’’ My father nodded in the affirmative. She wasn’t satisfied, she asked again “Are you the son of the late John Igwesi?” My father nodded again and immediately, her face lit up and she said “My husband is Philip Ani. He Always talks about John Igwesi. He said your father (John Igwesi) trained him back in the days at Umudike (I feel she was talking about the then School of Agriculture, Umudike which is presently known as Federal College of Agriculture, Ishiagu). He said that if it weren’t for your father, things would have become really hard for him. He said he wasn’t the only one your father was training at that time. He also talked about how your mother would always give him a very big portion of food because she and my husband were both from Amechi and she always called him her bro–ºther”.
She said so many other beautiful things about my Grandfather while I just watched and listened in awe and admiration of a man who was a Colossus while he lived. My father went ahead to make again exactly the same plea I made and this time she quickly gave her nod of approval.
While we left to push in the car, I overheard her say to her visitor who was there while all these went on “Daddy wouldn’t have been happy if he came back and heard that I turned back the son of John Igwesi without rendering him the assistance he needed”. Yet again, she didn’t disappoint. I think she should be called Obidiya for she could tell what her husband would do at any given situation. Her approval of the request after she came to know whose seed my father was wasn’t an usurpation of her husband’s powers, it was a strong and undisputable confirmation that good deeds do not die. If they did, how come we came to reap the benefits of the deeds of a man who died many years ago?
His Royal Majesty, King John Egbo Igwesi (Eze Chinawaeze II of Obuoffia) was a civil servant with the then Nigerian Coal Corporation. He represented Udi Central Constituency in the then Eastern House of Assembly under NCNC. He was the Chairman, Nkanu County Council for 7 unbroken years, a record no other has held till date. He led the formation of Awkunanaw Welfare Association. He was a Scholar, seasoned Parliamentarian and a consentious civil servant.
He was the King of Obuoffia and the clan head of Awkunanaw. He will always be fondly remembered for moving the historic motion that bestowed autonomy on Nkanu Local Government from the old Udi Division. He trained and oversaw the establishment and rise of many sons and daughters of Awkunanw and Nkanu Land, some of whom are still alive till date.
He personified Justice as a defiant and strong willed WAWA man, little wonder, a typical Nkanu man who had been denied justice will tell you “I will show you John Igwesi.” This didn’t refer to any assumed callousness like his detractors would want to paint it. It was a pointer to his distaste and disdain for injustice, against anyone or group, in any garb or form. He was an Iroko and he came, saw, conquered and surpassed a lot of his contemporaries, a man whose political and historical records have been treasured at the Archives of the Enugu State’s Ministry of Information.
This in summary was the man whose name at that moment opened onto us a door that was shut. King John Igwesi is dead and yet he lives on. Those who are vexed and envious of the great life and times of John Igwesi have at times turned the truth about him and his descendants, to make it stand on its head. Because that position is uncomfortable for the truth, the truth has always, against all odds, reverted to its normal position which is standing on its feet.
Some days after the car incident, I got to know that Mr. Philip Ani died as a result of an illness he had been down with for sometime. Ah! (Hisses) I felt so bad, but I still felt somehow happy, happy because fate was very kind to him. Fate kept him alive till he did a last act of kindness to the first son of the late John Igwesi. I’m sure that as he journeyed to the great beyond, he must have felt fulfilled because he was able to say “Thank you” in his own little way to the late John Igwesi for all the good deeds he did to him and many others in his life time.
Like someone once said, carve your name on hearts because legacy is not just leaving something for people but leaving something in people. Before you die, if you haven’t, ensure that the world owe you a favour, a debt which they would pay to your children and descendants unborn. Leave the inheritance of a good name for your children in a world that will feel indebted to them because of the kindness, goodness and compassion of their parents.
It was Jonathan’s kindness that caused his crippled son Mephibosheth to eat for the rest of his life at the table of the king, David. I have now learnt to at all times introduce myself as Onochie, without forgetting Jon Igwesi, so that perhaps one would show me kindness because of the good deeds of Igwe John Egbo Igwesi.
•Prince Igwesi writes from Enugu