MC Awgu: When New Bethel College Celebrated Its Mentor

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David-Chyddy Eleke reports that it was a reunion of some sort, last December when old boys of New Bethel College, Onitsha gathered to celebrate its mentor, the proprietor of the college with the launching of his biography, ‘Michael Chigbo Awgu: Pioneer Leader in Education and Philanthropy’ and a memorial foundation

It was supposed to be a gathering of old boys of the New Bethel College, NBC, Onitsha, and Basdeen Memorial Grammar School, BMGS, Isulo, but the entire indigenes of Isulo, Orumba South Local government area of Anambra State converged at the small sleepy agrarian community for the launching of a memorial foundation and the biography of the town’s hero who died 40 years ago, reason being that Chief Michael Chigbo Awgu, MC Awgu for short as he was more popularly addressed affected the entire community, one way or the other, during his lifetime.

Drop by drop, the people trickled into the venue until the hall was fully populated. The Author of the book, a Canada-based Professor, Prof. Obi Maduakor while reviewing the life and time of Chief Awgu who was then Minister of Land and Survey in the defunct Eastern region said he was a politician in his own class. Maduakor said that unlike the politicians of today who are in politics for what they can grab, Awgu was in politics to better the lives of his people, explaining the reason for his opening and running chains of schools, both primary and secondary, during the colonial days.

According to Maduakor, “MC Awgu was a man of vision, who lived his life for others. Anyone who knows will tell you how hard it was to run a school during the colonial era. This is because it entails competing with white men, who virtually are the owners of education. But at that time, he was pioneering primary and secondary schools initiative as a proprietor. Through him, several kids were educated, and especially in Isulo, over 95 per cent of educated people in the community are attributable to him. He educated kids up to Ghana and Cameroun. He was a great man.”

Speaker after speaker took time to shower the late MC Awgu with accolades. For Prof. Godwin Oduu, who was chairman of the event, he was one man who would stake anything to be sure that things were done perfectly. Born into an Isulo Family, Michael Chigbo Awgu in 1906, and died at the age of 76 in 1977. That was not after he had engaged in philanthropy and pioneered education for indigent children, as well as going into politics where he spent 20 years, and used his positions in politics to impact his community, through the attraction of quality roads, post office and hospital.

Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, a member of the Peoples Democratic Party(PDP) board of trustees who was also at the event drove guests down memory lane recalling how it was a stroke of luck that he was admitted into New Bethel College, Onitsha. He said after his primary education, he had opted for either the Kings College, Umuahia or Dennis Memorial Grammar School, DMGS, Onitsha, “but I did entrance into both schools and passed, but was never lucky with their interviews.” According to him, after some more attempts, he settled for New Bethel College, and turned out to be the best for him.

“I decided to come all the way to Isulo for the launching of this book and the foundation because of what the name, Chief MC Awgu means to me. That was the man who founded New Bethel and gave us the opportunity to learn and become who we are today. He is our mentor, and if all old Boys of New Bethel or BMGS were allowed to say what they knew about MC Awgu, I am sure we will all have different things to say about him,” Iwuanyanwu said.

He remembered how he was a very skinny boy back them, and how he joined other boys to jump out of the window, or even jump down from story building, and that no one would believe that the same Iwuanyanwu has grown so big as he is today.

One of his surviving wives, Mrs. Josephine Awgu who was at the event told THISDAY that his husband was a man who lived his life for all. “As a politician, he gave his life to service to the people, and even though he later became the Minister of Land and Survey in the defunct Eastern region, his primary goal was how to make everyone else comfortable.” She said MC Awgu thought of others before himself, “the reason he does not own chains of landed property around the old eastern region, even after superintending the ministry.”

Prof. Maduakor, the author of his biography in an interview said, “MC Awgu is one man you will like if you met him. He was very passionate about education and he educated a lot of people who came near him. He owned two secondary schools and one primary school. He was a very interesting man, a disciplinarian who never smoked or drank. He ate only little food and worked all the time. He was a compassionate man and very kind to people. That is why you see these crowd gathered here today to celebrate him.”

Chief MC Awgu THISDAY gathered was a prominent politician of the post colonial days, who served in several capacity, apart from being a pioneer educationist of that era. He was born in 1906 to the family of Awgu Nwenwe. He first trained as a teacher at the Teachers Training College Awka, and founded his group of schools at around 1940. He later joined politics and contested the 1954, 1959 and 1964 regional and general elections.

Awgu was elected member of the Eastern House of Assembly at various times and latter appointed the Minister of Land and Survey for eastern region between 1955 and 1956. He was also appointed Commissioner for Abakaliki Province between 1961 and 1966. He was elected the traditional ruler of Isulo community in 1959, and recognised by the government of the eastern region the same year. He reigned as the monarch of the community until 1977 when he passed on. He is credited to be the sole developer of the Isulo community, attracting roads, post office, hospital and other amenities. He was also known to be directly or indirectly involved in the education of about 95 per cent of the educated people in the community and the entire area covering neighbouring communities.