By Unico Kalu Uduka
This is the exit of one of the few remaining aerolitic fireballs that came to titivate Nigeria’s political firmament. They are rare, and like shooting stars they are, they live a bright tail of light behind them. My first physical contact with Comrade Uche Chukwumerije was in December 2002. I had led a student delegation from Abia State University Uturu, comprising ten males and twenty females. This visit was not the typical ‘students courtesy visits’ to a politician that most times serve as a survival strategy and a stop-gap measure. Comrade Chukwumerije had sent for resolute, active and possibly young men and women who may share similar ideological views and would be open to mentoring on dedication, hard work and nationalism. We got to his house, sat down in his ‘Obi’ and waited for about 10 minutes. I was struck by his humility which he consistently maintained till death. He came in and apologized like he had kept us waiting for ages. Anybody that knows Senator Chukwumerije will agree that apologies easily flowed out of him anytime he found out he was wrong. On phone, physically, he was quick to say ‘I am sorry’, and ‘thank you’-age and status were no barriers to his apologetic mien.
Senator Chukwumerije was humane and soft hearted, especially when confronted by demands from less privileged. At first instance you may be discouraged by his reaction, especially on one and one contact but he will never allow you leave without attending to your issue. He was a ‘perfectionist’ who will want all tiny details and rules adhered to. He was very uncompromising in whatever he believed in and this was always a point of disagreement between himself and many who thought otherwise. He is reputed to have had the highest number of turn-over of Aides in the National Assembly. You must be intellectually outstanding and psychologically balanced to work with Senator Uche Chukwumerije for three months without resigning or receiving a sack letter. He relied on merit and competence not nepotism in choosing his Aides. The environment surrounding one’s formative years influences the dialectics of his mind. As a young graduate, Senator Uche Chukwumerije’s office was my first work experience after my NYSC. That contact shaped my passion for truth, dispassionate and forward-looking view of Nigeria’s political situation.
Ndigbo and Nigeria will greatly miss this political philosopher. It is a fact that Nigeria is a multicultural coliseum, where ethnic nationalities compete to determine who gets what, when and how. There are piles of writings and researches on intentional and unintentional policies that have stifled the re-emergence of Ndi Igbo in Nigeria after the Civil War but they are few classics on remediation. Understanding the strategic roles of mortal men in human and societal development, Martin Luther King Jr wrote, “…Human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability; it comes through the tireless efforts of men willing to work to be co-workers with God, and without this hard work, time itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation…”. Senator Uche Chukwumerije was a co-worker with God in fighting social stagnation. Apart from his practical demonstration to fight the Igbo cause, Oji Isi Aho Mgbo was a distinguished political philosopher, who consistently wrote so many articles and gave lectures exposing the brazen marginalisation of Ndigbo and signposting principles, strategies and actions of Igbo re-emergence in Nigerian politics. “Ndigbo: A Sacrificial Lamb of a Deformed Nation is an exposé of the plight of Ndigbo in a redefinition of National unity. In December 2012, he gave a lecture, ‘Ndigbo and 2015: An Exhortation. This was an inspiring charge to Ndigbo in all walks of life, political parties to work together in pushing for Igbo presidency in 2015. His words “…Ndigbo are in trouble politically and unless very urgent and decisive remedies are summoned to tackle this unbecoming situation we will disappear completely from Nigeria’s political map…Our Presidential bid has all the required moral content… We will be making a national bid by talking to others, by convincing them about the imperative necessity of a Nigerian President of Igbo extraction…” It came with a clear strategic roadmap to achieving the goal. Perhaps one of the greatest strategic documents for Igbo re-emergence and political rebirth written by anyone is “2015: Before Us Lies an Open Grave” written on October 24 2013. . This is a well thought-out strategy for Igbo engagement towards 2015 and remaining relevant beyond 2015.
Dike Ogu Igbo was passionate about Nigeria and never aligned with any process to subvert the power of the people. Even when not physically strong, his mental power was still up there and the spirit to fight injustice never departed from him. At 75, Senator Chukwumerije felt he was at his peak of service to his father land and his people. In December 2014, at the intermediate stage of this illness that eventually took him, I travelled with him several times to the South East and I recall with pains his passionate and honest appeals to those who felt he did not satisfy their personal yearnings in the constituency. He promised he will personally make sure that anything he attracts to the people is fairly distributed instead of the usual hijacking by few people. I also recall his phone discussions on how he thinks his constituency and Ndigbo should fare in 2015 and beyond. He was one person that stood for truth, honesty and stood against lies, deceit and subjugation in any shape. Senator Chukwumerije had hopes for a better Nigeria. He was a fearless protagonist that spearheaded the dismantling of the 3rd term agenda that would have distorted the gradual development of Nigeria’s democracy. I had waited with nostalgia the publication of his account on Third Term which he sent me to the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs Victoria Island Lagos for literature search.
Distinguished, I called you on phone to ask about your health. I prayed that God will heal you and bring you back to stay with us for a little while. You told me ‘thank you’. That was your last word to me. I will also Thank you for being here with us the much God permitted. Thank you for the training. We shall continue from where you stopped!!
Good night Senator Uche Chukwumerije.
Unico Kalu Uduka, a former Personal Assistant writes from Abuja