Today, we celebrate a distinguished gentleman who gave himself wholeheartedly to the service of mankind. Mazi (Sir) Christopher Sunday Kanu was born on October 24, 1934, to Mazi Nneneanya Mmajuogu Kanu and his wife Mgbokwocha. His parents were among the members of Uchegbuom kindred of Amuvi Village, Arochukwu, who had sojourned to and settled in Amokwe in present-day Enugu State of Nigeria, around the last decade of the 19th century.
The young Christopher attended St. Thomas Roman Catholic Primary School, Udi, during which years he was baptized and confirmed in the Catholic Faith. He did well in family, communal, academic and sports engagements, especially football. After obtaining his First School Leaving Certificate, Christopher gained admission into Washington Memorial Grammar School, a private Catholic proprietary school in Onitsha, and obtained the Cambridge School Certificate in 1957.
After a brief stint as a clerk at the Nigerian Railway Corporation, Enugu, Mazi CS Kanu joined the Nigerian Customs Service, Lagos, where he worked as a controller till 1963 when, on a study leave of absence, he travelled to London. He enrolled as a student of accountancy at the Balham and Tooting College of Further Education in South West London that September. By June 1965 he had cleared all the papers at the Intermediate Examination of the Association of Corporate and Certified Accountants (ACCA) in a record time of under two years of studentship. Remarkably, Mazi Kanu’s academic distinction constituted a breach of the college’s regulation, namely, that all accountancy students study for two full years before attempting the professional examination, in order to ensure that the college maintained the high percentage success rate of its students in this examination. Consequently, Mazi Kanu and the few other students who had sat the examination were denied re-admission at the College for September 1965. He transferred his studentship to the North Western Polytechnic (now the University of North London).
In spite of the psychological and financial disruptions engendered by the Nigerian-Biafran Civil War that erupted in 1967, Mazi CS Kanu had by June 1969 cleared all his papers at the final examination for the award of the full certificate of the Association of Certified and Corporate Accountants of England and Wales. In August of that year Mazi CS Kanu married his heartthrob, Professor (Lady) Okpete Roseline Kanu (then Okpete Roseline Okeke), whom he had met in the library of Balham and Tooting College of Further Education, four years earlier.
Two years later, in 1971, Mazi CS Kanu and his family moved to Zambia, where he took up appointment as chief zccountant of the Agricultural Finance Company, a subsidiary of the Rural Development Corporation (RDC) of Zambia. Four years later, in 1976, mid-way into a second contract with the RDC, with very attractive professional and financial prospects, Mazi CS Kanu and wife, Okpete, decided it was time to return to Nigeria, primarily for the purpose of rearing their children within their cultural roots.
Arriving the newly created Imo State in February 1977, Mazi CS Kanu landed a job in the Imo State Civil Service and was deployed to the Ministry of Works and Housing as chief accountant. Thus began his distinguished civil service career of smooth and steady progression from chief accountant to director of treasury operations and next in line to the Accountant-General of the state at the creation of Abia State in 1991.
At every deployment, Mazi CS Kanu showed himself a person of exceptional professional accounting competence and established himself as a core professional in both word and deed; exhibiting financial probity and reflecting impeccable accounting professionalism. Little wonder he became the first choice of every government in power seeking financial accountability on matters of public concern such as the many panels and commissions that were set up in those years in a bid to stem corruption and ensure accountability in public finance. Mazi CS Kanu was the accounting officer in no less than six panels and commissions such as those on Local Government Reform and the high-profile Justice Nnanna Wawachukwu Commission of Enquiry into the Award of Contracts in Imo State, 1984 to 1986.
He mentored and assisted many aspiring young persons to acquire certification as accountants. It is no exaggeration to state that a good number of those that have bloomed as qualified accountants in the East and South-South states experienced his tutelage and/or had their ICAN registration forms signed and endorsed by Mazi CS Kanu.
As the most senior accounting officer of Abia State origin in 1991, when the state was created, Mazi CS Kanu became the first Accountant-General of the state – a role in which he excelled, beginning with the Asset Sharing Committee, often working single handedly. With his wealth of experience from several accounting sectors in different parts of the world, Mazi CS Kanu set up the accounting system of Abia State on the best of time-tested professional principles, values and corporate governance. He ensured that public monies were put to use in accordance with officially designated sub-heads. Consolidated revenue went regularly and promptly to where it belonged. Salaries, pensions and gratuities received deserved attention as first charge on revenue. There were no mix-ups and no one owed anyone because Mazi CS Kanu, the chief accounting officer of the state, was a man of integrity who knew his onions and was in the service to serve all, and he did serve impeccably.
As chief accounting officer of Abia State from 1991 to 1993, Mazi Kanu walked the corridors of power and emerged without the stains that often go with power, to the glory of God and as legacy to his children and grandchildren.
It is befitting to isolate some of the outstanding personal qualities of the distinguished Mazi CS Kanu, that serve as legacies to his offspring and the society at large. His home was to many the source of school fees, hospital bills, general upkeep or just about anything requested. He and his wife produced over 15 graduates out of whom only three were his biological children, and in his office where many a junior staff had their GCE and ICAN exam fees paid by him.
When people of integrity were sought, Mazi CS Kanu was first among the first in line. He deserves his rightful place when the names of those who made great sacrifices for Abia State are mentioned, among other reasons, with his excellent and dedicated service to Abia State, particularly in the Asset Sharing Committee with Imo State, and to Nigeria in general.
Mazi CS Kanu was courageous and was able to take up tasks far beyond his normal capacity, and he succeeded in accomplishing them. His readiness to go the extra mile to be at peace with family members, friends and neighbours was legendary. He had great distaste for commotion and negative publicity. He was a strong believer in hard work. For him, everything was subject to proper planning and was positioned to succeed. He was the family man par excellence.
Mazi CS Kanu was devoted to the cultural observances of his people, the Aros, in ways that did not compromise his Catholic Christian beliefs and status as a Knight of the Catholic Church. One example of this is that he would not eat the new yam crop until after Ikeji Arochukwu had been celebrated. He would thereafter organise an extended family celebration of the New Yam involving his kindred living wherever he happened to be stationed at the point in time.
Mazi CS Kanu loved God and made great effort in following God and helping members of his family to see the immensity of God’s grace upon His creation. “A family that prays together, stays together” he and his wife would always counsel. He, therefore, inculcated in his family members the strong desire for close a relationship with God, the desire to be counted as servants of God in His earthly vineyard and the desire for supporting the building up of the Body of Christ, the Church.
His funeral obsequies started on December 7, 2019, with a requiem mass and continues on December 30, 2019, with a service of songs and wake. On December 31, 2019, after a funeral mass at St. Thomas Catholic Church, Amuvi Village, Arochukwu. Abia State, the remains of Mazi (Sir) Christopher Sunday Kanu, FCCA, MBIM, FCA, Ugwu Aro, KSM and the first Accountant-General of Abia State, will be committed to Mother Earth.
Mazi CS Kanu, the distinguished father, grandfather, uncle and the husband of Prof. (Lady) Okpete R. Kanu, was an exceptionally great man. His greatness will continue to unfold to generations ahead. His life of selflessness is much appreciated. We appreciate his eventful life and all that he gave us in his life, his exceptional legacy and wonderful memories as a professional, husband, father, grandfather, uncle, friend, mentor and inspiration. Though he was ill for many years, he lived well, was well cared for and died well because he died as he lived, without bitterness, without regrets and with a smile on his face. Mazi (Sir) CS Kanu lives forever in our hearts!
•Sir Chima Kanu, for the family