Chief Julius Ekawuku Imudia may not have died young having had his final breath last month after over eighty fruitful years on earth. That he is dead is a pill too bitter to swallow by his children, family, kinsmen, friends and many other people who encountered the octogenarian while he lived. This is possibly because he remained active in many respects often doing things his peers could not dare to engage. He did not wish to be bedridden long in hospital writhing in excruciating pains to elicit private prayers for his exit. And behold, he got his wish. He passed on quietly and happily.
He was a fulfilled man in many respects. Though he was a man who suffered deprivation in his adolescence but he soldiered on until he became a successful businessman, charismatic politician, community leader and alternative dispute resolution expert. His transparency, truthfulness and gentle mien turned him into a household name across the length and breadth of the Old Bendel State maintaining dignified links with first class traditional rulers and political gladiators in Nigeria.
Chief Imudia, born into Owa family in Alisimie, Agbor, was not a man whose kernels were broken by benevolent spirit. He was trained by his uncle, Mr. Roland Owa, who was into bakery in South West Nigeria. It was from him, he got the skills in bread-making.
On returning back to Agbor, he ventured into bakery, plastic products, automotive merchandise, commodity brokerage and building materials. As old age sets in, he de-invested to concentrate on building materials and haulage though he retained his real estate investments.
He betrayed a major trait of self-made men who refuse to help others climb the progress ladder. Chief Imudia did not want parents to approach him to train their children or wards. It was the reverse. In his many building materials distribution outlets, young men were recruited with near absolute freedom of management.
Chief J. E. Imudia, though acquired only basic education probably due to financial constraints, ensured that he not only gave his children western education but invested in others who had no biological links to him.
He had unrepentant love for his people and by extension, Agbor Kingdom. He was the founding President-General of Agbor Community which was established in the early 70s. He joined his peers to attract several projects to the kingdom such that the then Obi had to encourage them to form Okiroro Association (pathfinders) who subsequently donated a large expanse of land to them in appreciation of their immense contributions to Agbor Kingdom.
He was a clean politician, who believed and advanced violence-free politics. He was one of the few who saw politics as a vehicle to advance the interest of the people as against his contemporaries who have taken it as a profession, trading off communal interest on the altar of personal aggrandizement.
At every political or social event, Chief J. E. Imudia, provided financial support.
Chief Imudia both in words and deeds was a fan of a united Ika nation. His relationship had no clannish barriers. He maintained dignified relationships with several Obis and clan heads.
In the struggle for the creation of Anioma State, Chief Imudia, was a proud partner in the project. He ensured he put his business schedules aside to travel with Anioma sons and daughters to campaign and lobby power brokers. And on such visits, he was always given opportunities to speak considering his charisma and unquestionable knowledge of traditional history.
Chief. J. E. Imudia, was not a man scared of standing on the side of truth and justice. He had no ears for gossips. In the face of threat to personal safety and denials, Chief Imudia, never buckled. It was for this reason that many relied on him to resolve various forms of conflicts. His judicial pronouncements are hardly punctured because they are made in good faith.
As a father, Chief Imudia, was firm and in total control. Though he had a knack for consultations, his words are laws. He maintained links with his kith and kins. He was a genuine lover of his children, extending same to anyone who encountered him.
There is no gainsaying that Chief J. E. Imudia until his demise was about the most popular, loved and charismatic Agbor man. This can be attested to by the kind words that poured out as soon as his exit was confirmed.
For Chief Benjamin Elue, a former Governor of Delta State, “Chief Imudia played significant role in the Anioma agenda. In our efforts to ensure the creation of Anioma State or the emergence of Anioma son or daughter as governor of Delta State, Chief Imudia, was with us. When the need arose, he pulled on jean and fez cap before us. He preferred to be with us in buses, cracking jokes as we travelled the length and breadth of Nigeria. He never used his financial muscle to intimidate members. His heart was clean as he was handsome.
“I make bold to tell you that Chief Imudia was a man afraid of scandals. For this reason, he ensured he stood on the side of truth at all times. He was a good man; always interested in conflict resolution. I am aware that most people in Agbor metropolis depended on him to resolve disputes for them as they were sure of his impeccable decisions.”
Prof. Wilfred Isioma Ukpere of University of Johannesburg, South Africa, said:” When we were kept in a state of suspense of a prominent and highly respected Ika Chief that transited, my heart went straight to Chief J E Imudia, because I knew there was no other prominent and very highly respected elderly Ika Chief in Ika land like him. Then I prayed that the sad news shouldn’t be about him.
“However, the secret has been painfully broken to the contrary. Chief Imudia was a true legend from Ika extraction. He was a father to all. I have played with his children at his home as a little boy. Although a traditionalist, he was also a modernist. As far back as early 1980s he has all forms of children janglovers (playing implements) at his compound that is comparable to what one can find in current European playground/Gardens. Reflecting back, it seems to me that those playing tools at his compound were not really only meant for his children because his gate was always open that other children, including my very self, always sneaked into his compound to play with those playgames without his or his children consents.
“His level of honesty is incomparable. When Matthew, my brother, was murdered in Ika land after advancing a deposit for some cement he was about to purchase from Chief Imudia’s company, of which we were not aware of, the honourable chief called us and advised that our late brother, had paid a huge deposit to him for some cement. He then refunded all the deposit back to us.
I have heard about his honesty but that action alone struck me and confirmed what I have heard about him. His smiles were genuine and contagious; he was an icon of community, an epitome of peace, a political juggernaut and a father to always behold. As he transits to a new realm, I pray for his soul to rest in peace in the bosom of the Lord.”
To Mr. Hillary Agholor, “Chief Imudia, a great Agbor son; you were one of the finest chiefs to come out of Agbor Kingdom, a likeable gentle man. I never saw you angry; with a wonderful sense of dressing and kind. You were a father to all. Those smiles of yours would surely be missed with your demise. It marks the end; the last great Agbor chief whose integrity cannot be doubted. Rest in Peace Chief.”
I remain in pains with the sudden death of Chief Imudia for many reasons. I had a passionate relationship with him. Few months ago, he invited me to his country home in Alisimie. After his usual welcome pleasantries, he gave me a detailed traditional history of Agbor.
Considering the importance of the oral history, he directed I acquire a video camera with which to produce a reliable and credible documentary that could stand the test of time. Sadly, the project was at its infantile stage when the man left.
I recall with nostalgia, a call he put across to me last year. “Where are you, Mr. Eghebi? Are you not aware that Alisimie has no light for weeks? Come and see me with my son, Sunny Egede of The Pointer Newspaper”. After interviewing him on community issues, we expect the usual ‘brown envelope’. We dare not ask for we must contribute to develop our community. And we were available!
That Chief Julius Ekawuku Imudia , the Onye Won Ihian of Agbor Kingdom is dead is very painful but that he left a shoe too big for use by others is most painful.
Next month, Agbor sons and daughters, friends and all believers of truth will converge in Agbor to bid a man who lived and died for his people farewell. Many will not shed tears because he lived a fulfilled life. Some of us will do because we cannot have another like him. He is truly irreplaceable. Safe journey, Baba!