David Onwuchekwa, Nnewi
Recently, Nnewi, a major town in Anambra State, was agog with a large presence of Nigerian Army bigwigs. They were not in the community to fight any battle. They were there to pay their last respects to a fallen officer and an illustrious son of the town, Major General Ifeanyichukwu Momah (rtd).
Momah, former Minister of Science and Technology, between 1995 and 1999, died at 77. He had retired after years of meritorious service in the military.
The funeral started in Abuja and ended in Nnewi, his country home, where he was laid to rest on October 30. As expected, no fewer than seven serving Major Generals in the Nigerian Army were present, in addition to soldiers who were in every part of the community. There were military parades, and gun salutes to the deceased who was buried at his residence, 27, Eme Court Road, Nnewi.
The burial was held after a church service at St. Stephen’s Anglican Church, Umudim.
In his sermon, the Bishop of Ogbaru Diocese, Rt. Rev. Prosper Amah, spoke on the theme “Divine Appointment.” He described death as a necessary end awaiting every mortal, irrespective of class or position in society.
Drawing his text from the Book of Hebrews, the cleric said judgement was sure after death and admonished the living to get prepared for Judgement Day. He described eternity, whether hell fire of heaven, as a permanent place where one could not make amends or change any situation after entry.
On arrival from church, the Army performed the traditional last respects before interment during which they gave the deceased the last salute at the graveside.
The wife of the late Major General, Christy, was consoled by sympathisers trooping into the family house. The first son, Dr. Emeka Momah, and his siblings also received large groups of relations, friends, in-laws and other well-wishers coming in with cows, drinks and wrappers, among others, as tradition demanded.
Earlier, the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. T.Y. Buratai, in his funeral rites, described the late Major General Momah as an articulate, dedicated, loyal and hardworking officer, after tracing his journey in the military.
Buratai, who was represented by the General Officer Commanding, 82 Division, Nigerian Army, Major General L.A. Adegboye, said the late Momah had a good sense of purpose in his days in the Army and was able to achieve a lot.
“He was a perfect gentleman who was committed to his duties. In recognition of his meritorious service to the nation, he was honoured with many medals and awards. His death is a great loss to the Army, the Nigerian nation and his family in general.”
One of his sons, Tobe, an assistant professor, said his father loved investment in human capital, which was why all his five children had second and third degrees in their chosen fields from distinguished universities, home and abroad. He noted that his late father was disciplined.
“All through his career in the Army, he was noted for his hard work and honesty. He was faithful to my mother and he raised his five children with integrity and honesty. We were taught to read our books. He gave priority to our education. Our wives have second or third degrees because of the love he had for education. He invested in people.
“We felt privileged being the children of a Major General but that didn’t go to our heads. We were brought up in a disciplined home. Our father was disciplined and, above all, God-fearing,” he said.
One of the late Major General Momah’s tenants, Pastor Ezekiel, said all his tenants were treated as a part of the Momah nuclear family.
“He was approachable and a father to all of us. He even called me his pastor. That shows you the closeness. He showed great love to all his tenants. We are really missing him,” Pastor Ezekiel said.
There was enough to eat and drink for all categories of people at the funeral, while various live music bands entertained guests.
Some other senior Army officers present at the burial were Major General J.S. Malu; Major General S.A. Yaro; Major General Ayamasowe and Major General C. Ofoche, among others.
Other dignitaries included the traditional ruler of Nnewi community, Igwe Kenneth Orizu III; Minister of Science and Technology, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu; former national publicity secretary of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Emejulu Okpalaukwu Okpalaezeukwu; former Governor of Anambra State, Dame Virgy Etiaba; and Emeka Etiaba, SAN.
Onu, who was accompanied by the director of the Technology Incubation Centre (TIC), Nnewi, Dr. Uche Chukwu, and other staff of the ministry, said the late Momah would be best immortalised when the dreams and ideals he stood for were actualized. He described the deceased as a perfect gentleman who made worthy contributions to the Army as well as the Ministry of Science and Technology.