By Acho Orabuchi
Death has once again dealt a jeering, but devastating blow to the Nigerian community in the United States, particularly the Igbo community in the Houston area. Thus, leaving us despairingly wondering how could it be that Okechukwu Chris Mbadugha left us untimely to be with the Lord? Undeniably, people are still sedated with the shock of the shattering news about Okey’s death which they, including myself, received with a great sorrow and disbelief. Okey just left us! Indeed, Nigerian community has lost a philanthropist with impeccable leadership, who had a knack for helping people both here and in Nigeria. The untimely death of Okey Mbadugha, a devout Christian, an unassuming and punctilious family man, has once again robbed Nigeria of a great moral leader, whose unpretentious nature, as well as his munificent characteristic had tamed those who came to know him. His towering personality, emblematic of his antecedents, always exuded the spirit of peace.
I seldom write tributes when people pass away, but failure to eulogize Okey Mbadugha of Umuezeala, Ogberuru in Orlu L.G.A., Imo State, Nigeria, whose maternal home was my kindred, would be a dereliction of responsibility and an abject disservice to the Ogberuru community in the United States, particularly the Igbo community in the Houston metropolitan area. Therefore, it is my onus to share with my readers the pedigree of the Okey I knew. Perhaps, I’m more compelled to write this tribute out of admiration for Okey’s rare character as evinced by his magnanimity. Still, it was with a heavy heart that I lifted my heart and fingers to begin to organize my thoughts and compose this piece on the man and his life. Okey died on September 16, 2021 of natural causes. Elder Humphrey Maduagha, who was at the hospital when Okey took his last breath, broke the news to me as I was in the classroom. I paid a condolence visit to the bereaved immediate family in Houston shortly after. In an emotionally laden voice with red eyes indicating the effects of many days of weeping, Dr. (Mrs.) Loretta Mbadugha began to narrate the character and persona of her husband, as well as the vacuum his death has created in the family. She extolled her husband’s commitment to God, love for his family and his generosity toward mankind. With a trembling voice, and choking with words, Loretta managed to utter these words before she was overwhelmed with emotions. “Okechukwu lived a good life; he was very funny and cracked jokes a lot. He was loving and took care of the family,” she said. “My husband was a man of the people, who was endowed with peace, wisdom, and knowledge,” she narrated. She said, “My husband stated that he had a good life and had no regrets.” “Okey said that he would marry me all over again,” she shared with pride. She jokingly said to him, “I don’t think I’ll marry you again in our next life.”
“My husband made sure his kids were okay; he focused on ensuring that each of his children gets an adequate education,” Loretta shared. Again, with a vacillating voice and reflecting on their marriage, Dr. (Mrs.) Mbadugha proudly said, “Marrying Okey was the best thing ever that happened in my life and we were blessed with three children.” Okey was involved in a lot of humanitarian activities and he gave generously to charity and supported many families in Nigeria. He encouraged his wife, Dr. (Mrs.) Loretta Mbadugha to put some widows in Nigeria on a salary. “We were planning to increase the number of widows to put on a salary,” Loretta said disappointedly. In collaboration with his senior brother, Elder Humphrey Mbadugha, Late Okey Mbadugha built houses for the widows in his community. Before he could see those houses, I videoed them and sent to him while I was in Nigeria. They also built a road that stretched for about two miles. Although Okey was never scurried to do things, he was definitely a stickler for minuscule details. A characteristic I could confirm by the way he meticulously carried his building project in the village. We were talking often about our plans. He was organized and he planned things to minute details before executing any project. Because of his penchant for details and careful planning resulting in successful ventures, many people were drawn to him. Okey, as devout Christian, touched many lives in positive ways not only by personal examples, but also through his active participation in numerous civic activities. While alive, Okey worked assiduously behind the scene to find unity in Ogberuru. He thought of disintegration of Ogberuru as a noxious phenomenon. Thus, many people came to admire Late Mbadugha for his unwavering honest character and his unremitting commitment to fairness was unparalleled and sometimes appeared threatening to some in our community who seemed to be burdened and chained by the vagaries of the present. Okey Mbadugha was an affluent individual, especially in spirit, who never allowed earthly riches to swell his head. He was one of the very few Nigerians who never wore their worth on their sleeves. Okey felt that he was blessed, and God was using him as a veritable instrument for uplifting others—a privilege he relished until his death. Okey was enterprising and generous to the Nigerian community here and at home. He gave with humility and never expected anything in return, unlike those individuals who gave for aggrandizement as they resided in a deep valley of absurdity. Regardless of people’s idiosyncrasies, Chris, as some people called him, was receptive to all individuals. He used his resources to uplift humanity and never thought of using them to undermine anyone. One could rightfully attest, without fear of contradiction, that Okechukwu Chris Mbadugha was humble, affable, and amiable. Most importantly, he was an honest man, who had a knack for helping others. He never wasted his time on unimportant things. Okey was a simple man, who never obfuscated his feelings or positions. He was inspiring, caring, compassionate, and peace-loving individual. Even in death, Okey continued to preach peace. Okey appeared in my dream on Tuesday, September 28, 2021 primarily calling for peace.
During his brief 68 years of life, Okey served humanity. Okey’s soothing and refulgent mien diminishes his intimidating and towering personality. People could relate to him more easily despite his exuberant demeanor. I could attest to that because I lived in his flat in Ikeja, Lagos when I was working with UBA Ikeja Branch shortly before I left the country. Okey was very generous and could relate with people from various backgrounds.
Though the quiet lion is gone, but his legacies which he etched so deeply on the commitment to community service anchored with strings of honesty and unabashed genuineness will forever echo loudly in various communities in Nigerian. More importantly, the greatest tribute we can pay to Okey will be for us to ensure that the life Okechukwu Chris Mbadugha epitomized, the ideals he profusely professed, lives on in Nigeria.
Adieu, dear Okey. Adieu!