By Sam Ekpe
It was in the early 1970s. The Nigerian Civil War had just ended. The music group Peacocks International released one of their popular hits in which they praised among others John Anyaehie, Toyola Crown and Mike Merchandise Electronics dealer. That was the first time the name of this Aba based industrialist, the business entrepreneur, the philanthropist extraordinary, the socialite par excellence and the exemplary humanist came to public consciousness.
Chief Mike Nkwoji, the Okpataozuora I of Enugwu Ukwu na Umunri in Anambra State was a man among men. Young at heart, he was only 73 when he passed on, in a London Hospital on Friday March, 18th 2016. He found the company of much younger men more pleasurable. Christmas Eve party on December 24th every year in his residence was the venue where all home comers, both in and outside Nigeria, met, socialised and prepared for the New Year. After several years of his 24th night party, he moved the get together to 1st January every year – New Year buffet Lunch. The event was as usual celebrated on January 1st 2016. How could we have known that it would be the last with him.
Nkwoji, was the Obu Uzo Ogu in name and indeed – One who is in the forefront in any fight. In many instances in the affairs of Enugwu Ukwu he would either conceive or pioneer a development project in the town. Name them – the first privately tarred road in the town, from the Old Onitsha road to deep inside his village, the first privately dug borehole with taps in the village square, expansion project of Immanuel Anglican Church Enugwu Ukwu in which he spent millions of Naira, the donation of a fully air conditioned church – St. Monica’s Anglican Church Enugwu Ukwu, the establishment of Enugwu Ukwu Sports Club, motivator and highest donor and most recently the gigantic stadium shaped Umunri Palace Enugwu Ukwu of which again he was the motivator and highest donor, the donation, along with Igwe Ralph Ekpeh and Senator I. G. Abana of Enugwu Ukwu Hostel to Paul University, Awka, a four storey, four hundred bed project which cost hundreds of millions of Naira, donation of ultra-modern – ultra sound 3D machines worth millions of naira to Anambra State University. Outside Anambra State he made landmark contributions. They include donation of similar equipment to the Abia State University Teaching Hospital Aba including dialysis machine for treatment of kidney disorder, significant financial contributions to the Aba and Enugu Golf courts . He also sponsored many Nigerians through Rotary Club of Nigeria for treatment abroad, and through his Mike Nkwoji Foundation awarded Scholarships to hundreds of secondary and university students. Poverty alleviation schemes were part of Mike’s way of life.All these achievements and accomplishments were made without any publicity or fuss.
I related more closely with him in the early 1990s, especially on the Creation of New Anambra State in 1991. He immediately formed the Enugwu Ukwu Friendship Association (EFA) to which all known Enugwu Ukwu elite in various walks of life were invited. He was the Convener/Chairman and I served as General Secretary. Meetings were held on every last Saturday of the month and attendance was very heavy, from Lagos, Enugu, Aba, Port Harcourt and various far way places. Mike would host every meeting lavishly and looked forward to the next meeting. The Enugwu Ukwu Friendship Association immediately got the massive Civic Center in the town ready for use as the temporary State House of Assembly for Anambra State. The Old Umunri Hall at Enugwu Ukwu was reconstructed and improvised as the Sports Club to which the members of the House of Assembly belonged, exercised themselves and socialised. Mike donated the billiard table to the Club
Soon after the demise of Igwe Osita Agwuna Eze Enugwu Ukwu na Igwe Umunri, about eight years ago, it was difficult for different factions of the political divide in the town to agree on a mutually acceptable meeting venue. As soon as the name of Nkwoji was mooted, all the factions consented to his residence being the venue for meetings and as usual he hosted several peace meetings in his residence, resulting in the peaceful selection and election of the traditional ruler of the town Igwe Ralph Ekpeh. Such was the personality of the man whose remains we shall commit to mother earth on Thursday April 28 2016.
It was William Shakespeare who said in Julius Caesar that when beggers die no comets are seen but the heavens themselves blazé forth the death of princes.
Since the news of Okpata’s death filtered in, Enugwu Ukwu has being in a state of confusion and uncertainty. It seemed as if a cloud of uncertainty had descended on the town. How can such a great Patriot whose love for the progress and development of the town was unequalled die? But our great town has gone through this sad episode in her history in the past , One or two outstanding patriots had passed on, but after an apparent spell of doom the town marched on in unity and progress. So we all hope and pray it will be with us without Okpata.
To live in the hearts and minds of those we leave behind is not to die. Therefore Mike Nkwoji, Okpataozuora Global is not dead. He cannot die. The great monuments he established bear eloquent testimony that he is not dead. He lives.
Rest in peace our epitome of handsomeness, humility, decency, goodwill and promoter of regular camaraderie spirit among hardworking people. It is well with Mike Nkwoji.
––Sam Ekpe is an Abuja based Media and P.R Consultant.