By Ingram Osigwe
When a good man departs, hearts quake, eyes become teary and many become inconsolable.
The above are exactly the case with the people of Azia community in Ihiala Local Government Area of Anambra State following the death of one of their illustrious sons, Hon. (Barr.) Simon Uzama Okpalaeke, Ikenga Azia.
It was with a profound sense of loss and shock that friends and associates of the family far and wide learnt of the untimely death of Barrister Okpalaeke.
The Okpalaekes and indeed Azia community are at a loss as to why their illustrious son had to depart at this time.
Everyone who knew Okpalaeke is saddened and devastated by his departure not because he would have lived forever but because no one imagined he would be gone so soon.
During his lifetime, Okpalaeke was always full of wit and candour, very resourceful and devoted to humanity and to the things of God.
For the entire Okpalaeke family and Azia community this is an irreparable loss.
It is only with equanimity and calmness of heart that one can overcome this grief, knowing that Okpalaeke has run the good race and is now resting in the bosom of the Lord.
The Okpalaekes, having amassed tremendous goodwill over the years, have been receiving an outpouring of words of encouragement since Simon left. So, assuredly, the family is not mourning alone.
Azia as a community and Anambra as a state mourn with the Okpalaeke family and grieve with them over the transition of this great son of theirs, for he worked tirelessly for the upliftment of his community and state.
Okpalaeke was a patriot whose love and passion for his people was unparalleled and unwavering. As a member of the Anambra State House of Assembly, lawyer, corporate czar and international businessman, Okpalaeke left an indelible mark in the sands of time in terms of attracting rapid development to Azia.
As a lawmaker representing Ihiala II state constituency, he left a salutary imprimatur of quality and people-oriented leadership. Okpalaeke was a selfless leader who gave his all, sacrificing his comfort and pleasure just for the good of his people.
His demise has left a great vacuum in Azia, for he was one of the beacons of hope for the community.
Surely, this is a painful loss and one can only pray that God’s abiding love be with the family and give them strength and comfort during this time of deep sorrow.
Though we mourn because we would have loved that Okpalaeke stayed with us a little longer, one is consoled by the fact that his elegant virtues are acknowledged and applauded by those who knew him and what he stood for, for, in the words of Abraham Lincoln, “In the end, it is not the years in your life that counts, it is the life in your years.”
Born in 1957, the young Okpalaeke attended Lafiaji Primary School, Fegge, Onistha, from where he proceeded to St. Anthony’s Secondary School, Azia. He was to finish his secondary education at Uli Boys High School, Uli, in 1979, obtaining Grade 1 in his WASC examination.
Okpalaeke studied law at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, graduating in 1986.
After Law School in 1987 and Youth Service in Ede, Osun State, the following year, he, in partnership with some colleagues, set up a law firm, Duru, Okpalaeke and Co. at 103, Awolowo Way, Ikeja, Lagos. It was a successful practice as the firm handled many landmark cases and won.
The expansion of the family business, GINPAT Aluminium, soon required Okpalaeke’s legal expertise and he was made head of the company’s legal department and director as well. He held these positions in the company till his demise on February 1, 2021.
Notedly, GINPAT is a pioneer aluminium company founded by three unique brothers, namely, Chief Godwin Okpalaeke (the Onowu Azia), the late Chief Pat Okpalaeke (Omezilibe Azia) and now late Barr. Uzama Okpalaeke (Ikenga Azia).
Indeed, the Okpalaeke family of Azia, through Uzama, was able to show Nigerians that three brothers could live in one compound, cook in one pot and show love.
In-between the periods of his law practice and positions at GINPAT, Okpalaeke shuttled abroad for international business and was at a time a force to reckon with in the importation of refrigerators and air conditioners.
He also worked for Dozzy Oil Ltd as managing director of one of the company’s subsidiaries.
Being a very popular, humble and grassroots person, Okpalaeke, in 2007, contested and won election into the Anambra State House of Assembly to represent Ihiala Constituency II.
It was to Okpalaeke’s credit that during his representation, he attracted the construction of the road leading to Nkwo Okija from the St. Anthony’s Catholic Church junction. He also gave Ebonesie community the ring road from Azia through Mbosi to Orsumughu.In fact, during his time in the House, Ihiala Constituency II never had it so good in terms of quality representation.
A knight of St. John International, Okpalaeke was a caring husband to his lovely wife and heartthrob, Chinyere (nee Enendu), whom he wedded in 1992, and a doting father to their six wonderful children who are all successful in their various fields today as informartion technology gurus, pilot and lawyers.
A man filled with the milk of human kindness, Okpalaeke introduced Full page to some prime accounts. He also extended similar gestures to many other friends.
The late Ikenga Azia belonged to many clubs, including Diamond Fitness Club and G 21, among others, and he was never passive in any of the clubs.
Hon. Simon Uzama Okpalaeke, Ikenga Azia, the people’s person, the humane, the kind-hearted, a man with a heart of gold will sorely be missed.
• Ingram Osigwe is the MD/CEO, Fullpage Communications Ltd