Ezeife: The Sage’s Last Journey Begins April 12

Ezeife: The Sage’s Last Journey Begins April 12

By Law Mefor

Reminiscing about the demise of His Excellency Okwadike Dr. Chukwuemeka Ezeife, one might easily think of the great philosopher Epicurus. The great thinker made this statement on the marble: “Against all else, it is possible to provide security, but as against death, all of us mortals alike dwell in an unfortified city.” Death is indeed an inevitable end that must come when it must come.

In his magnum opus, The City of God, one of the Doctors of the Church (Catholicism), St. Augustine, pointed out how death is inevitable. He said, “For no sooner than we begin to live in this dying body than we begin to move ceaselessly towards death. For in the whole course of this life (if life is what we must call it), its mutability tends towards death. Our whole life is nothing but a race towards death.” There is an end to life that comes when no one knows. 

Thus, death is a portion that all living things have to take, and Okwadike has merely taken his share. Dr. Chukwuemeka Pius Ezeife, Okwadike Igbo Ukwu, passed away at the Federal Medical Centre Abuja on Thursday, December 14, 2023, at the ripe age of 86. He was a highly contented and joyful man. As a leading Igboist and statesman in Nigeria, he had the most impactful influence over Igbo matters and Nigerian politics.

 On December 15, 2023, Ezeife’s family announced his passing. The Service of Songs and a carnival to honour his life will kick off his final earthly journey back to his creator on April 12 in Eagle Square, Abuja. On April 19, the Anambra state government will conduct his state burial in Awka. On April 20, he will be interred and given an Igbo burial in his hometown of Igbo Ukwu. On April 21, there will also be a Thanksgiving service in Igbo Ukwu. It is a week-long celebration of the life and time of Okwadike Chukwuemeka Ezeife, and he takes the final bow, leaving the stage.

On February 8, in Abuja, the national burial committee was officially inaugurated by Rt. Honourable Benjamin Kalu, the deputy speaker of the House of Representatives. Okwesilieze Nwodo, a former governor of Enugu State, was chosen to lead Chukwuemeka Ezeife’s national burial committee. He is also the former governor of Anambra State. The star-studded national burial committee of the late sage consists of former governors, legislators, captains of industries, and elder statesmen of various social-cultural groups, faith-based organisations, political parties, and civil society groups across the country.

The Deputy Speaker, who presided over the committee’s official inauguration, tasked the Nwodo-led group with ensuring that the late Ezeife received a fitting send-off. He also promised the assistance of the National Assembly members. Deputy Speaker Kalu remarked at the time, “Ezeife was a great man who sacrificed for the Igbo tribe. He believed in a South East of peace and unity. He did not stand for the killing and destruction some people are carrying out in the region now. He also believed in dialogue and the spirit of oneness. So, we will use his burial to tell Nigerians that Igbo people are united.”

Indeed, Ezeife lived a long and healthy life until his final hour, in keeping with George Santayana’s advice that “there is no cure for birth and death save to enjoy the interval.” This is especially true if one takes into account the palmist’s postulation that a man’s life on Earth is three scores and then eighty if he is still strong and he flies away.

Man’s journey from womb to tomb is paved with obstacles and driven by fate. We can learn from Ezeife that hard work, courage, and divine providence are prerequisites for achieving destiny. Fulfilment of destiny must be based on intentional hard work. Anyone who lacks the courage to take risks like Ezeife did will undoubtedly die unknown and unrenowned. On November 20, 1938, Ezeife was born in total obscurity in the Igbo-Ukwu community in Anambra State and struggled to attain national prominence. His life story shows the boundless achievement that can be attained, even in the most daunting situations, with perseverance, integrity, and the grace of God.

Ezeife was a philosopher, statesman, Igboist, nationalist, political economist, activist, humanist, and humorist. He was a top social justice fighter and a major voice against the marginalisation of Igbo people in Nigeria. More importantly, as a nationalist, Okwadike had a firm belief in a restructured Nigeria rather than a dismembered Nigeria. He once clarified that “a sovereign Biafra by default” meant that if Biafra was “forced on Ndigbo,” the major black ethnic group would have no choice other than to become a nation. Most Igbo people agree with Okwadike’s position on Biafra as a last resort—Biafra by default.

Chukwuemeka Ezeife is one of the few men who attained immortality by demonstrating through their lives that life continues beyond death. The lives of such men suggest that there is significance to all we accomplish in this life. It would imply that even when a person passes away, their suffering, good deeds and even evil deeds will all have significance for those who will live after them. This line of reasoning suggests that the only thing that gives our time on earth meaning is the hereafter. Men like Okwadike left enormous imprints on the sands of time, having made their time here on earth sublime. The legacy of Okwadike will therefore pass into time, and he will be eternally and nostalgically remembered for good.

Biblically too, life doesn’t end; it gets changed and changed to immortality, the imperishable form that can cohabit with the immortal God, the creator. Man’s destiny in life is to return to God, from whom he entered the world. Men are but pilgrims here. One life ends, another begins. So, Okwadike technically is not dead; he has entered a life of immortality, where he would continue his championship of the common good (if need be).

The Igbo battle axe and true leader, Okwadike Ndigbo, may you rest in peace. We, your survivors, will persevere until we finish the tasks you began and take on the remaining tasks you couldn’t attend to. May the good Lord, who bestows rest upon weary souls, bestow repose upon your fighting soul. Amen. 

·       Dr. Law Mefor, an Abuja-based forensic and social psychologist, is a fellow of The Abuja School of Social and Political Thought; drlawmefor@gmail.com; Twitter: @Drlawsonmefor.

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