Dr. Joe Nwodo whom all of us gathered here tonight needs no introduction. He was a scion of the great Oak Tree, late Igwe J.U. Nwodo, a former Regional Minister in the then Eastern Regional Government of Nigeria under the able leadership of Chief Dr. Micheal Iheonukara Okpara, of the Blessed Memory.
Dr. Joe’s family background and up bringing was not like those whose aristocratic pretentions reposed on imaginary foundations. The OdoNwokoro Royal Family of AmakofiaUkehe cannot be second guessed, for their indelible imprints are there for all to see.
Dr. Joe Nwodo, the grammarian, the wordsmith, the matchless rhetorician, the orator par excellence and the best of them all in the late Igwe J.U. Nwodo’s family, an intellectual giant, an accomplished lawyer and businessman, was my mentor and friend. He was a source of inspiration and a role model. Very early in my relationship and association with him, he noticed my potentials and never relented in prodding and encouraging me to be the best I am expected to be, to the extent that between 1999 and 2007, I was his choice at different times, either as a member of House of Reps or as a Governorship aspirant on the platform of APGA, that never was.
When Dr. Joe Nwodo decided to run for the Governorship of the then old Enugu State, I happen to be one of the early able bodied youth in the Nsukka cultural zone to pledge my support and loyalty to this noble cause. I coordinated the Youth Wing of his struggle and campaign in Uzo-Uwani LGA of Enugu State. In close range, I watched him painstakingly lay the foundation of modern day governorship bids for elites in Enugu North Senatorial District and beyond. Following his example and footsteps, many of our political elites dared to dream big and aspired to be Governor such as Hon. Fidelis Ayogu, Chief OkechukwuItanyi, OkeyEzeaEsq, the Incumbent Governor of Enugu State, His Excellency Rt. Hon. IfeanyiUgwuanyi and Most Distinguished Senator AyoguEze.
My fellow sympathizers, by the death of Dr. Joe Nwodo, humanity has lost a man with the heart of gold. A man that was as large hearted as he was in size. A man that espoused meritoquotocracy- three issues rolled into one. A man who preached a brand of home-grown democracy that recognized merit/competence, while ensuring that the Federal Character Principle/Quota system as enshrined in Section 14(3) of the 1999 Constitution as amended, were not shortchanged on the altar of nepotism and greed. Dr. Joe Nwodo, the first proponent of ‘kafotoonyeNsukka Zone kobena Government House, Enugu’, a man who used his wealth and oratorical skill to galvanize a civil revolution in Nsukka Zone to dare and to conquer, was my man. He was a preacher and an embodiment of can do spirit.
Where do I start and where do I stop talking about Okenwaanaamuruoha, Dr. Joe Nwodo, ahumanwa, echetanna? In his governorship campaign rallies, Dr. Joe Nwodo was always in his elements. He was so gifted in speech deliveries that he can mobilize and move a mass of the people into action, like no other person. Any reader of Robert Payne’s classical book on ‘The Life and Death of Adolf Hitler,’ will agree with the author that Dr. Joe Nwodo shared with Adolf Hitler in mass hypnosis when it was said by Payne that Hitler was ‘an actor of prodigious talent who could do with his audience whatever he pleases, and had learned how to raise the temperature of his audience to flash point, and at this point, they were no longer separate individuals; they were fused into the mass… And he alone can perform these seemingly miraculous feat of mass hypnosis. And so was Dr. Joe Nwodo.
Dr. Joe Nwodo replicated this feat not only in his campaign trails in the old Enugu State. No. He exported it to the National Convention of the Nigerian Republican Convention’s (NRC) Presidential Primary in Port- Harcourt in 1993, where he held the National Convention Delegates spellbound and narrowly lost to Ibrahim Tofa as a second in the hotly contested primary. Like Adolf Hitler, it was said of Dr. Joe Nwodo that….. ‘as he continued talking, the future began to draw closer, and the longer he talked, the closer it became until it seemed that the future might be tomorrow or the day after’. No wonder Dr. Joe Nwodo talked up the sleepy and hilly Nsukka Zone’s landscape into serious political activity ever since. He woke up the sleeping gaints in what used to be docile Nsukka political elites to the extent that for the first time, an Nsukka man in His Excellency Dr. OkwesiliezeNwodo was elected the first Executive Governor of the old Enugu State in the 19th December, 1991 Governorship election. Fate turned Dr. Joe unto a John the Baptist for his younger brother, His Excellency Dr. OkwesiliezeNwodo, and the rest as they say is history. Dr. Joe Nwodo by his revolutionary actions confirmed the notorious Iraq Saying that “an army of sheep led by a lion will defeat an army of lions led by a sheep”.
Talking about Dr. Joe Nwodo and his several years of being bed ridden, I will certainly and wholeheartedly agree with Jean de La Bruyere when he opined and reasoned that ‘A long illness between life and death makes death a comfort both to those who die and to those who remain’. But notwithstanding, true friends and compatriots of the Nwodos are grieving over this death. And again, I agree with Thomas Babington Macaulay in his letter to Hannah Macaulay in 1833 that ‘There are not ten people in the world whose deaths would spoil my dinner, but there are one or two whose deaths would break my heart”. And certainly Dr. Joe Nwodo is one of them. This is because there is no grief like the grief which does not speak.
Dr Joe Nwodo, Agadagbachiriuzo of Ukehe, what do we do for thee than to commit your body to the ground; earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust; in sure and certain hope of the Resurrection to eternal life. But then like Benjamin Franklin in his 1728 Epitaph on himself wrote. “The body of Dr. Joe Nwodo the lawyer (like the cover of an old book, its contents torn out and stripped of its lettering and gilding), lies here, food for worms; but the work shall not be lost, for it will (as he believed) appear once more in a new and more elegant edition, revised and corrected by the author’.
To Dr. Joe’s wife, Emeka and his siblings, I say take heart. You had a great husband and father. To the family of late Igwe J.U. Nwodo, I say thanks for being there for your brother, through thick and thin, for according to Samuel Butler, ‘it costs a lot of money to die comfortably.’
To Dr. Joe NnabuchiNwodo, my mentor and hero, in the words of William Shakespeare in his Henry IV, I say, ‘Adieu and take thy praise with thee to Heaven, Thy ignominy sleep with thee in the grave, But not remembered in thy epitaph’. May your pilgrim soul, and the souls of all the faithfuls departed, through the mercy of God, rest in perfect peace. Amen.
Senator Chukwuka Utazi, Enugu North Senatorial District