Theodore Ahamefule Orji
It was Archimedes, the great mathematician who said, ‘give me a place to stand and I will move the world.’ This is equally true of Sir Bob Ewulonu Ogbuagu who graciously passed on to eternal glory on August 21, 2017. It was actually the end of an era that witnessed purposeful, political activism, humanitarian services, impartiality and selflessness at its best.
Sir Bob Ogbuagu was the son of a Methodist Headmaster and lay preacher who began his educational quest in his local Methodist Central School in Umukabia, Ohuhu, Umuahia North Local Government Area of Abia State and continued to the famous Methodist College Uzuakoli, a school known for nurturing and unleashing firebrands in the academia and the professional space.
Ogbuagu did not rest on his oars but later in life capped his education with many certificate courses from different institutions and organizations.
Sir Bob Ogbuagu steeped himself into the nationalist struggle to free Nigeria from foreign and imperialist domination in the 40s and 50s as an irrepressible youth. During his stay in Kaduna, he dumped a juicy career in the Survey Department and floated a newspaper, the Northern Advocate, which emulated the fiery editorials and chronicled the galvanizing rhetoric of Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe. In a related development, he was among the vibrant hotheads of the Zikist Movement who wanted an accelerated push for independence.
Other members like MCK Ajuluchukwu, Kola Balogun, Anthony Enahoro, Ike Nzimiro Sa’ad Zungu, Osita Agwuna and Raji Abdallah to mention a few worked assiduously with him as the general secretary. Most of these men are gone today and have been greatly canonized as our heroes past. For their nationalistic zeal, Bob and his fellow compatriots received the brunt of the Whiteman’s wrath and served time in Jos Prisons.
After this special treatment in Jos, he relocated to the Eastern Region to continue the struggle by joining Dr. M I Okpara, the Premier of the region, in mental reconstruction and practical execution.
Dee Bob was appointed the General Manager of the Eastern behemoth, The Eastern Nigeria Development Corporation (ENDC). Under his watch, the ENDC unleashed quantum developmental agenda in the then Eastern Region comprising present day Rivers, Cross River, Beyelsa, Akwa Ibom, Ebonyi, Enugu, Anambra and Imo States. Vestiges of agricultural reforms and other developmental strategies are still there today. For instance, the Rubber Plantations, Farm settlements, Presidential Hotels and Catering Rest Houses, Nkalagu Cement Factories, Golden Guinea Breweries, paper mills with raw material support from well nourished forestry flourished during his administration. Spectacularly in 1961, the World Bank acknowledged in one of their reports that the Eastern Region is the fastest growing economy in Sub Sahara Africa.
Professional, humanitarian and social services
Chief Bob Ogbuagu took the field of public relations seriously when many knew nothing about it. He was the national president of Nigerian Institute of Public Relations from 1980 to 1984. In 1981, he was outstandingly elected as the chairman of the Federation of African Public Relations Association in Nairobi, Kenya, a position he held till 1987. With his zeal to serve humanity, he took on Rotary Club International as if it was a paid job and in 1983 was elected the District Governor of District 911 Rotary International Nigeria.
Awards and titles
His nationalist struggle earned him a national order of merit award as Officer Order of the Niger (OON) in 1965. For his exemplary and practical leadership and for being a good ambassador of his people, the Ohuhu People of Umuahia invested him with the Onu N’ekwuru Oha of Nkoegwu in 1970 by Nkwogwu Autonomous Community. This spate of recognitions did not end at home as he was crowned as Motoye of Ijanika in another language catchment area of Lagos state in 1983, and Omee Okachie of Eziama in the same year, Otun Babagunwa of Mushin, in 1998. As a founding father of Abia State, he was awarded the title of Enyi Abia in 1997. His recognition did not end in the secular alone as he equally invested in the Lord’s vine yard. The Methodist Church noted his unquenchable zeal in working for God and man as he became Lay President and later benighted as the Knight of John Wesley in 2000.
From all ramifications, he passed the Rotary Four Way Test. He astutely answered Ogbuagu, in name and in deeds and like Archimedes was given a little space from which he moved the world in great degrees.
With all these, a beautiful chapter of freedom, political activism, and humanitarian services have come to an end. According to Calvin Coolidge, former U.S. President, ‘no person was honoured for what he received; honour has been the reward for what he gave’. Being a true nationalist, he could speak the three major languages. He lived a modest lifestyle and was never mentioned in any fraud or official corruption. He deserves all the accolades he could get from both nationally and international sources if, really, the contributions of our founding fathers are not left to flounder. May God give us another like him as his soul rests in perfect peace!
*Orji, is the Senator representing Abia Central Senatorial District at the National Assembly