When an Iroko Falls

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The land of Oraifite will not forget in a hurry the burial of Late Pa Godfrey Egbuniwe Okwuosa, an Iroko tree, whom the thud of its fall quaked the land, sending the news far and near; attracting personalities from every sphere of life and from the four corners of the earth. Peace Obi who was at the burial ceremony, reports that indeed an Iroko was laid to rest in Oraifite, Anambra State, recently

When an Iroko tree falls, the thud quakes the land and the news goes abroad; man and animal in anguish mourn their loss for different reasons. And Just like the fall of an Iroko tree would attract the attention of all and sundry, the news of late Pa Godfrey Egbuniwe Okwuosa, alias Amalunweze demise and burial went far and near. And in solidarity to the bereaved family, were delegations from countries around the world, governments, business associates from Nigeria, republic of Uganda, Ghana, Togo, Benin, Canada, London, Spain, among others were all present to pay their last respect to Pa Okwuosa.

Described as an epitome of positive values and character; an iroko of inestimable value, among others, the late Amalunweze was said to be an absolute gem whose death has left his family, his kindred – Irefi, the people of Oraifite, Anambrians, Nigeria and the world with a vacuum too big to fill. His extreme handsome looks was said to be an X-ray of his good heart and person that eventually left him as a most likable person. The land and the people of Oraifite in Ekwusigo Local Government Area of Anambra State will not forget February 24 in a hurry, when it received perhaps the greatest number of foreign visitors to its soil. The tributes poured in torrents and the similarities in their contents were as though being extracted from the same source. It was a case of different minds speaking in unison with a formidable conviction that Pa Okwuosa lived a fulfilled life both in age and achievements.

Described by many as an Iroko tree and truly to this description were sparkles from Pa Okwuosa’s life pointing to every attribute and characteristics of this unique tree. Iroko tree, popularly known for its sturdy nature and ability to produce solid woods, Pa Okwuosa was said to have possessed strong and uncompromising character which he reproduced in his children. And as a very tall tree with wide branches, serving as shelter and shade for both humans and animals. Amalunweze was said to have stood tall in his career as a teacher, a soldier, a contractor, an educationist, with exceptional qualities in leadership, service to God and humanity. And that through his philanthropic life, he spread his hands wide to accommodate the needy around him and thus provided home, shade and shelter to many people beginning with his siblings. His branches became even wider as he transferred some of his unique virtues to his children and have them spread across important sectors like health, politics, oil and gas legal cum clergy where just like their father they are affecting and impacting lives positively.

The burial ceremony of the 96-year-old late Pa Okwuosa who was also a member of the Knight of Saint Christopher (K.S.C.) started on Thursday, February 23 with a service of songs at his residence in Irefi, Oraifite.
The service led by the Archdeacon of Oraifite, Venerable Dan Azodo and a team of priests and ministers from other denominations led the congregation in a number of soul searching hymns. As the crowd were thrown into a reflective mood by such hymn like “Asleep in Jesus! Far from thee. Thy kindred and their graves may be; But there is still a blessed sleep, From which none ever wakes to weep,” Ven. Azodo in his admonition urged the congregation to always realise that they are pilgrims on earth. Taking his Bible reading from John 14:1-8 and drawing references from other seven Bible readings slated for the service, the priest said that God has through his word shown man the way to life. According to him, no man can live a life worthy of emulation without the help of the Holy Spirit which he said was available to those who surrendered their lives to Jesus Christ.

Drawing references from the various testimonies by the children of the deceased, siblings among others, the Venerable said that Pa Okwuosa was able to achieve outstanding records and attained enviable heights during his lifetime because “he was a life that knew God from the onset. His impacts on lives and society are based on his knowledge of God. If we imbibe the qualities of honesty, integrity, compassion, the nation will be a better place,” the priest said.

The burial service which held on February 24 at St. Jude’s Anglican Church, Oraifite – a church that was said to have been set up by late Pa Okwuosa’s missionary father, late Mr. Alfred Onwukwe Okwuosa in 1910. The church, with its modern structure and large capacity could not contain the crowd that turned up for the service, neither was its expanse land accommodate its visitors’ vehicles. It was a gathering of the who-is-who in Nigeria, Anambra, and among the diplomatic world. The house of clergy was also not left out, as the Archbishop of Enugu Province and Bishop of Enugu Diocese, His Grace Most Reverend Emmanuel Chukwuma led the officiating archbishops, bishops and retinue of clergymen at the service.

In his sermon, titled ‘Heaven is Our Hope’, the Archbishop of Enugu Province and Bishop of Enugu Diocese, His Grace Most Reverend Emmanuel Chukwuma said that death was a way God gives rest to his faithful children from their labour and struggles of life. Taking his Bible readings from Revelation 14:13; 1Corinthians 15:56, 2Corinthians 5:10 and Revelation 20:12, the Bishop reminded the congregation that judgment awaits everyone at the end of their journey on the planet earth. And reiterating the fact that heaven and hell are real, the Man of God asked the listeners how ready they were for the prepared place, where God has made ready for those who will remain obedient to his word at his second coming. Chukwuma who urged listeners to shun evil and embrace righteousness, revealed God will reward everyone according to their works while living.

And that the blessings of God follow righteous people while living and that they will also be received by God in heaven.
Extolling the virtues of the late Pa Okwuosa, the Bishop said that through his exemplary life of strong Christian virtues of discipline, truthfulness steadfastness, honesty, among others that Papa had written his name on the sands of time and that the huge legacies he left behind can never be erased. Urging parents, youth, church leaders and even politicians in the service to emulate the late nonagenarian, said that the evidence of his quality parenting is visible in the lives of his children who are successful in different fields of endeavours.

And in his condolence message, the clergyman wrote, “Amalunweze, you were without a doubt the greatest man we have ever known. You taught your children how to tell the truth, to respect elders, to forgive, love and fear God and also to be compassionate to everyone. You were indeed a generous man of immeasurable values and sterling qualities. The strong moral values you inculcated into your children has taken them to a strategic and enviable height in the society.

“You were perhaps the most celebrated man in your community, Irefi, Oraifite, Ekwusigo Local Government Area in Anambra State. You were a perfect example of hard work, humility and dedication. Your kind and selfless services in the church of God and humanity at large made the Diocese of Nnewi Anglican Communion to investiture you the Knight of Saint Christopher (KSC). We are grateful for the life you lived here on earth,” the statement read.

Also, the Governor of Anambra State, Mr. Willie Obiano who was at funeral service, in his condolence massage, said the he sympathised with the deceased’s family, extended family and Oraifite people at large. Adding that the passage of a great man lights the path of the living. “On behalf of my family, Anambra State Executive Council and Ndi Anambra, please accept my condolences. The passage of a great a man lights the path of the living. Amalunwaeze was a great man whose sense of generosity and community leadership is outstanding. He lived for the immutable service of men through good works. I extend my deep condolences especially to my Special Adviser on Agriculture, Tourism, Training, Methodology and Emergency, Bar. Amaechi Okwuosa, the larger Okwuosa family and all his loved ones.”

Describing the deceased as a world citizen, the National Chairman, All Progressives Congress (APC), Mr. John Odigie-Oyegun, said that the deceased having served in the colonial army and fought in the Second World War at a young age in addition to his sojourn to Cameroun and other places, the obvious exploits he made in different professions, revealed that he was a man of remarkable achievements. “He served and lived amicably in several parts of Nigeria and the then Southern Cameroun, as a teacher, contractor, transporter and politician. In all his life’s engagements, he was acclaimed to have served with distinction. As a family man, he was a good brother to all his siblings and a devoted father to his nuclear family. In his older years he retired to his village where he continued his service to humanity as a respected community and church leader.

In the light of the above and on reflection, on his 96 solid years of life and achievements, I have little doubt that his transition is an occasion for celebration and thanksgiving to God rather than sadness and mourning on account of all the blessings that the good Lord has bestowed through him, on his family, his community and nation,” he said”
In an interview with THISDAY, the leader of the Ugandan delegation, Lt. General Charles Angina, hinted that his country deemed it necessary to share and support the Okwuosas at the time of their grief, especially as one of his sons had shown interest in investing in Uganda. “Engr. Emeka has already made enroute to Uganda and he has clearly shown interest in investing in Uganda. And so, when we heard the news of the sudden passing on of our great Papa Okwuosa, we felt in African culture and tradition that when a brother loses a beloved one, it is a loss to all of us. So, we came to commensurate with him and give him support in the aspect of seeing off our beloved Papa who has left great legacies. And I bring greetings from President Yoweri Museveni and the people of Uganda. I bring love and best regards from Uganda to our beloved sisters and brothers in Nigeria,” Agina said.

The burial ceremony which seemed to be a gathering of the high and mighty in the society, the wife of late Ikemba Odumegwu Ojukwu, Mrs. Bianca Ojukwu said it was a testament to the legacies the deceased left behind. According to the former Nigerian Ambassador to Spain, “He was a very upright individual and very uncompromising in his values. He made immense contributions to his community. Pa Okwuosa is a sterling example of somebody who rose from adversity without compromising, essentially, the tenets of decent behaviour and he made a great impact not just to his church and Oraifite people but to Anambra and Nigeria as a whole.”

The first son, Dr. Chino Okwuosa who spoke glowingly about his late father during a testimony session, hinted that there were too many fond memories, legacies and lessons the father left behind. Chino who revealed that he had a unique relationship with his father as well as his siblings, said they were truly blessed to have had him as a father. “We are truly blessed to have someone who had the patience and willingness to lay a great literary foundation in us as well as challenge us to greater heights from all we learnt from you.

“No one can forget in a hurry the stories from your experiences when you served in Burma during the Second World War, stories of your escapades when you resided in Southern Cameroun in the colonial days, your years in the Northern Nigeria and the years of the Nigeria/Biafra civil war. In all these, you remained a fountain of wisdom for all and sundry.”

Speaking further, the Doctor said he would remain grateful to his father not just for the great benefits but also for some negligible things he learnt from him. “There were many little things, too numerous to recount such as teaching me how to knot the tie, tie my shoe laces, dress appropriately and neatly – tucking in my shirts, etc. Papa you were simply a complete gentleman in words and deeds. Above all, having been guided to professional fulfillment, you were to benefit from the outcome because I had the singular opportunity to personally contribute to your healthcare and taking life defining decisions in your later years,” he said.

The third son and Chairman, Oilserve Groups of Companies, Engr. Emeka Okwuosa who described his late Dad as an epitome of simplicity, said he was someone who clearly manifested all positive virtues anyone could ever dreamt of. Digging a little into the history of their late father, Emeka said that he lived a life that started with a humble beginning. Adding that it was a beginning that came from his grandfather who was a primary person in terms of education, Christianity, among others. And that his grandfather was a Catechist which was the highest ranking position in the Anglican (CMS) Church as at that time.

“My grandfather was the one who set up St. Jude’s Anglican Church here in 1910. So you can see the background anchored in God, anchored in Christ and positive values. He went on to show escapade in education unfortunately for him, while he was still in secondary school in DMGS, Onitsha, his father died. And he had to start a different career, which made him to go into the military. Joining the military and fighting the Second World War as a young person in his 20s. Having said that, he went on to build a career and character that was on the truth, on positives, solid discretion and of course raised us as such. We learnt a lot from him. Our Christian values are all anchored on what he and our late Mum taught us.

“And then, when also you see the entire family as we are today, moving forward, you can see that the foundation came from him. He is someone who believed that you have to lay a very strong foundation for you to get a good result and that is what you are seeing today. So, our Dad, we missed a lot and will continued to miss him. But again, we thank God for giving him long enough life. It is long enough life because nowadays people hardly dream of living beyond 80. But to have lived up to 96, and he has been able to achieve virtually all you would expect any normal human being to achieve.

“We will miss his calmness. In the heat of things, he would remain calm. And then, his compassion he was always willing to give up anything to help others to live a better life. That was someone who could have gone on with his life, but because he was the first born, when the father died, he gave up everything to be able to make sure that his siblings were okay.
“He was a teacher but despite the fact that being a teacher at that time meant a lot. It was beyond middle class, he felt that he needed to make more money to help the family by taking a risk to join the military to go to war. That is to tell you the story about my Dad. So, we missed that a lot. And of course what I missed again is that fact that most times whenever I thought about coming to Oraifite, I was always happy coming back home to see him but that won’t be anymore,” Emeka said.