By Chimdi Maduagwu
Death, be not proud though some have called thee mighty and dreadful for thou art not so…
– (John Donne)
I have not been able to properly fathom human thoughts on and about death. Great minds have pontificated on it; supposed lower and unappreciated beings and even lunatics have also laid bare their thoughts on death. But like William Shakespeare once reminded humanity, “death, a necessary end will come when it will.” The death of Barrister Anthony Ikechi Ogwo is one that came with a discourteoustremor. At 79, anyone can say “Thank God” for the span (of years) that he spent on earth; however, the suddenness and finality of his parting are incomprehensible. The point being made is that he will not be seen again on this side of eternity. This time, rather than ask the question, why or what is it all about, we want to proffer answers in resignation and thanksgiving to God. John Donne, the Metaphysical poet who made the famous statement on Death above also composed a poem titled “A Valediction Forbidding Mourning.” So let my piece be a statement on death that forbids lamentation. The Moderator at the Night of Tributes in his honour suggested the first answer. She raised a praise to God for the gift of Anthony Ogwo to the world for 79 year. I join in the praise and thanksgiving for I am also a beneficiary of the gift. I also join on the side of answers, rather than questions (why) about his death.
I present my answers in total humility and submission to God and as I do so, I ask the guidance and protection of the Holy Spirit of God. We did not ask God why, when He created him – he was given birth, as the last of six children, to Late Pa John and Ma Janet Ogwo, a great and noble couple from UmuayaluEgbu. He grew strongly, steadfastly and eminently among his peers to become about the second Lawyer produced by his community – indeed a great gift. When he ‘entered the world’ – as they would say – after graduation and started modestly as a legal officer at the Nigerian Building Society, which transformed into the Federal Mortgage Bank, his life was a source of thanksgiving to God. He grew on the job to become General Manager, Company Secretary and Legal Adviser, and it was all praise to God. His marriage to Esther Odunze, a charming damsel and distinguished graduate of the Universities of Nigeria Nsukka and Lagos was a celebrated work of God. Then his children came:Chienye, Chioma, Ezemba and Ekechi, the world saw that they are the work of God and as God Himself said about His works “They are Good.” He was fortunate – we will say – to see his children develop from infancy to adulthood, navigating through the primary school to the tertiary level, all University graduates and professionals; and we say “it is the Lord’s doing and it is marvelous in our sight.”
While he was in the business of demonstrating God’s glory in family building, Barrister Tony Ogwo’s eyes equally roved round; his hands stretched out and his large heart opened to receive relations and friends, kith and kin. His renowned home (fondly referred to as 20), at the junction of Bode Thomas and Amosu Streets in Surulere transformed into “Our House.” It became popular for many, including this author, who started his career both as an academic and a writer there.
Most of the early writings of this author captured in his column “The State of the Republic” in the defunct Republic Newspaper were conceived in that house. At a time, more than seven youngsters, in pursuits of their favourite phantoms were under his roof. He cared that they all ate. He equally did constant mental checks on their whereabouts and wellbeing without interfering with their freedom as youths. All the tenants (at will) admired his awesome relationship with his wife and children, a relationship that is akin to the “peace of God that passes all understanding.” As we remember his gesture towards the young ones, who perennially gathered to spend various periods of time in his house, we simply bow down in worship to God who gave the gift of Tony Ogwo to the world.
Let me recount briefly, I had made a stop over to his house at Tobun Street, OnikeYaba while on Youth Service, with our cousin Onyemanze, who now is a very successful Petroleum Engineer with Total Oil and he persuaded us to spent the night with his family. He taught us how to iron a shirt properly, offered a job to Onyemanze (though he preferred not to take it) and gave me an open invitation, should I want to come to Lagos when my Youth Service period was over. That I did and warm welcome, I received. I lived in his house while a postgraduate student at the University of Lagos until my cousin IK Njere got an apartment on campus and honestly his house continued to be my anchorage, (sorry, our anchorage) until I was able to stand on my own at the point I won a Fellowship at the University.
Throughout Barrister Tony Ogwo’s life, there did not arise a cause to ask God why? We did not ask God, why He gave us a wayward child or a reckless brother, a nonchalant uncle, a useless cousin, or an uncaring father; his parents did not ask God why he gave them anirresponsible son. It had always been praises and thanksgiving. Should we now change our song or reshape our dance steps? No! God does eternal things and we know Tony Ogwo is a gift from God, therefore he remains eternal, even though his body is no more. Mitch Albom intones, “Death ends a life, not a relationship.” We join in that song: Tony Ogwo’s life may have ended, but no relationship has been interfered with.He lived well. He related well with people.
In mild humility and extremely calm countenance, he pursued peace with all men. His conduct was governed by established canons of Christianity. As the gospel reported of the Apostle called Nathaniel, we also say of Tony Ogwo, behold a man in whom there ‘was’ no guile.
Emily Dickinson says “Unable are the loved ones to die,/ for love is immortality.”NdaAntho, will never die in our hearts. As we say adieu, farewell, adios, goodbye, la nkeoma; we bear in mind an anonymous quote “goodbye is not forever; is not the end. It simply means we will miss you till we meet again.”
Maduagwu is Prof. of English and Director,
Confucius Institute at University of Lagos via [email protected]