By Sam Ekpe
“We have lost a rising star and a legend. What a great talent. I am speechless. What a great loss to our community.”
The above and many others from the entertainment community were some of the cries of grief, sorrow and regret expressed in the social media on the sudden death of young Uchenna Michael Ozumba (Zumbybrown), a well-known rapper and rising star on the Nigerian music and entertainment scene.
This bright light was dimmed in the morning of Tuesday, May 4, 2021. Zumbybrown, the only son of his widowed mother, Mrs. Mabel Ozumba, a retired deputy director in the Federal Ministry of Education, died from an asthmatic attack. And so ended the very promising and enterprising life of a Nigerian artiste poised to make his mark in the music industry. Zumbybrown’s stage performances on university campuses attracted huge crowds of dancing youths. How could they have known that their idol and his stage appearances were only a flash in the pan and that he would soon disappear into thin air?
Uchenna Michael Ozumba was born 23 years ago, precisely on January 31, 1998. After primary education in Lagos, he attended Christ the King College (CKC), Gwagwalada, and El Bethel Secondary School, Jabi, both in Abuja. As a result of his health problem, his mother saw him through Elizade University, Akure, in Ondo State, Bingham University, Karu, Nasarawa State, and Veritas University, Bwari, Abuja, all in a bid to ensure that he went through less hassles arising from gas inhalation through dusty roads and for close distance to his mother’s care and attention.
However, all these efforts have now come to naught as he answered the final call two weeks ago.
To illustrate the depth of her grief and deep sense of loss, his mother, full of tears and melancholy, made the following recollections of his life and times:
Tribute to my only son, Uchenna Michael Ozumba (Zumby Mummy)
NNA MUMMY, as I fondly called you, I wonder how on earth I found the courage to write a tribute to you knowing full well that a river does not flow backwards. What a painful reversal of roles. UCHE, who will write my own tribute? Who will rap wonderful music, laden with words of wisdom and love, to the wicked world tainted by strife, fury and envy? It has been two long weeks and even till now I still can’t believe that you’re gone.
I keep looking at the door, checking my phone, hoping at any given moment you would walk through the door or ring my number as you normally did. After all, I waited for about 12 years before your arrival in the first instance. I miss all the memories we shared, of you running unexpected errands for me and all the promises you made to make my life better when you are all grown up.
Your sister, Nne Mummy, and I miss that big smile of yours that melts our hearts, that loud infectious laugh that makes us laugh along with you and believe your promises. You would tease me about being Old School because I didn’t understand nor paid attention to modern technology but you were always willing to put me through whatever incompetence. Little wonder then, I didn’t realize early enough that you were a rising, shining star, such a big celebrity. You were a warm, generous, big-hearted son.
I am not at all surprised that you grew up to be such a passionate and compassionate young man. I see the life you lived and the legacy you have made and I am so proud of you, Uche. I wish I understood better and earlier in your short lifetime. Youths, fans and the world you bid farewell stand still for you. You’re indeed blessed and honoured even in death. Thank you for being my son.
There is so much to be said but not enough words to describe how I feel about your passing, my son. Sometimes, I sit in silence and speak to God, reminding him of his promises in Revelations 21:4 but the Holy Spirit brings my heart to rest with the words in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14.
You lived life to the fullest and loved deeply, Uche. Your legacy will be carried on by the countless many you have left behind, the countless many whose lives are forever changed because of you. Not even death can take that away from you.
I thought having to lay my own child to rest was the most difficult thing a mother could ever do, but how wrong I was, because to live a life knowing I once had you and no longer do is the worst of it all.
I prayed to God for a blessing and he gave you to me. It has pleased God to call you back and I will honour this and not question God.
The overwhelming love and support I received from your friends, families and even strangers have helped me through these sorrowful times. I felt your warmth and saw your smiles from every friend of yours who came up to me. This is entirely your doing and that is my testament that you lived a full life, Nwa’m.
Passion and dedication, that is your legacy, Uche; as profoundly painful as it is to try to move on without you physically by my side, I will do my best to move on because that is the lesson I have learnt from you. Doing your best with whatever you got.
Thank you for the life lessons.
Thank you for 23 years of watching you grow. Thank you for your hugs, kisses, smiles and promises.
Thank you for enduring the health pains you had to deal with while on earth to be my child.
Thank you for patiently explaining to me what was in ‘Vogue’. You showcased the need for job creation, skills/wealth development, entrepreneurship through music.
Thank you for the times you shared your talents and passion with me. The world will forever celebrate you. You carved a niche for yourself and left footprints in the sands of time.
Thank you for sharing your excitement and wins with me.
Thank you for being the best you could possibly be and thank you for the honour of being called your mom. Most importantly, forgive me and all members of my generation, the Old Schools, for misunderstanding and misinterpreting your actions.
I thank God for who you were, Uchenna, my pride and joy. I miss you so much. It hurts but, until we see again at God’s appointed time to see and hold each other, may your gentle soul rest in the bosom of the Lord. You are indeed a true testimony of the statement that “Not how long, but how well one lived.” Your short life was impactful and memorable.
I will always love you. Rest in peace, Uche Nwam!!!!
His remains will be laid to rest in his hometown, Uruekwo, Enugwu Ukwu, Anambra State, on Saturday, May 22, 2021. May his very dynamic soul find peaceful rest in our Lord, Amen.
•Ekpe is a veteran journalist and media consultant based in Abuja