Ik­peazu and the res­ur­rec­tion of a dead man (1)

Business Day (Nigeria) - - FRONT PAGE - GOD­WIN ADINDU

From the en­trance to his of­fice, through the stair­case to the main of­fices, there is no air of chivalry, no mark of os­ten­ta­tion. He is loudly or­di­nary, with no swanky mien. All around him is a be­witch­ing air of sim­plic­ity and hu­mil­ity. But, High Chief Tony Uru­ruka, the Aba-based Sur­veyor and Es­tate Valuer, is in­dis­putably a sil­ver-spoon-born and could have car­ried him­self in the man­ner of roy­alty and pomp. Af­ter all, he is the son of a for­mer Min­is­ter of yore, bred in the at­mos­phere of power and aris­toc­racy. “No, papa did not train us like that. Papa was a dis­ci­plinar­ian and made us to un­der­stand we needed to achieve suc­cess by our­selves,’ he quipped and swung his neck in dis­ap­proval.

Tony speaks de­lib­er­ately but in mea­sured words. He can­not pass as a man with the gift of the gab. He can hardly hold an au­di­ence spell-bound with a mov­ing ora­tory. His gift, and this is stat­ing the ob­vi­ous, is on the draw­ing board, in main­tain­ing pre­ci­sion and ac­cu­racy. But, last week, when he spoke about his leg­endary fa­ther, for whom Gov­er­nor Okezie Ik­peazu of Abia State built a statute, his voice came alive in a flow­ing nar­ra­tive that cap­tured ex­act rem­i­nis­cences of a fa­ther that was larger-than-life. It was a nos­tal­gic mo­ment as he re­called his child­hood and a bit of his teenage years with Papa. “I was less than fif­teen when Papa died. He was a big name and he left for us a big shoe that we are strug­gling to wear,” he said and stamped his feet on the floor to cre­ate em­pha­sis. “Papa was such a dis­ci­plinar­ian and a Chris­tian to the core. He never went to clubs or bars. His spare time was spent in the church,” he added.

“How do you feel about the statute the Gov­er­nor built in hon­our of your fa­ther?” my ques­tion seemed to have rat­tled him. He paused for a while as if he was try­ing to re­mem­ber a for­got­ten idea. “Gov­er­nor Ik­peazu res­ur­rected our fa­ther on the day he com­mis­sioned the statute. He

did not only im­mor­talise him, he brought him back to life,” he af­firmed.

If High Chief Tony Uru­ruka could sud­denly jump into a frenzy of flu­ency, it was for his elder sis­ter, Hon. Jus­tice Stel­la­maris Chine­dum Onyen­soh nee Uru­ruka, judge of Abia State Cus­tom­ary Court of Ap­peal, a mo­ment of the­atri­cal ora­tory and per­for­mance. She told her fa­ther’s story with pas­sion and drama. “What was your fa­ther’s favourite music?” I threw a ques­tion to her. “He loved old church hymns and lis­tened to a lot of old clas­si­cal music,” she re­torted, and sprang up from her seat to demon­strate how his fa­ther used to dance Waltz and Quick Steps, with his wife. She held her two hands up, as if she was hold­ing some­one, and moved one step, then a sec­ond step, an­other step and then turned round and round. “It was the music and dance steps of the elite of the time,” she said and col­lapsed back to her seat, her face glow­ing in the light makeup that re­flected with the laugh­ter on her face.

“We know so much about your fa­ther’s po­lit­i­cal ex­ploits in the Old Eastern Re­gion, but who was he in the house, as a fa­ther and a hus

band?’ My ques­tion came again. It was a ques­tion she was wait­ing for. She went back into me­mory lane and be­gan to roll: “He liked Ukazi soup a lot. That was his fa­vorite soup and he ate it with pounded yam mixed with small eba. He also liked por­ridge yam. He was a very good dancer. He played long ten­nis for ex­er­cise and does early morn­ing walk around the vicin­ity of the GRA, In­de­pen­dent Lay­out,

Enugu. We lived at No. 22 Abaka­lika Road when he was Min­is­ter for Com­merce and In­dus­try. Papa was a light sleeper and he never joked with his siesta. He loved his chil­dren so much but not to the point of spoil­ing us. He never went to ask for any favour on be­half of his chil­dren. He be­lieved that we must work out our suc­cess.”

The Uru­rukas were nine sib­lings but only three are alive to­day – Tony, Stel­la­maris and Chief (Mrs) Theresa Okonkwo nee Uru­ruka, for­mer Su­per Prin­ci­pal of Schools in the old Imo State. “My Elder Sis­ter, Theresa, and Papa were very close and in­sep­a­ra­ble. There was noth­ing my fa­ther did with­out telling my elder sis­ter. She was the ap­ple of his eyes. Papa trav­eled a lot to the many re­gions and prov

inces and anytime he was back, we will be strug­gling to serve him. He was a very re­li­gious man and a knight of St. Mu­lumba. He would al­ways go for morn­ing mass with my mother and, in the mid­night, af­ter the fam­ily evening prayers, he would still wake up and stepped to the par­lour to pray with his rosary,” de­clared Stel­la­maris.

Chief Paul Omerenyia Uru­ruka, from Umunkpeyi Nvosi, Isiala

Ngwa South Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment Area, is a renowned name in the Old Eastern Re­gion, a name that is as­so­ci­ated with the in­fras­truc­tural rev­o­lu­tion of the era. For the peo­ple of the Ngwa extraction, the name is syn­ony­mous with the first pub­lic pipe-born wa­ter and the Uru­ruka Road. An out­stand­ing politi­cian of the First Repub­lic, Chief Uru­ruka was at var­i­ous times, Min­is­ter of Com­merce and In­dus­try, Min­is­ter of Trans­port and Min­is­ter of Works in the Old Eastern Re­gion. He is by right the most fa­mous politi­cian of the Ukwa Ngwa extraction be­fore Gov­er­nor Okezie Ik­peazu.

Re­cently, the gov­er­nor im­mor­talised the late states­man by build­ing a statute af­ter him at the exit point of the road he built in the 60s. The ges­ture by the gov­er­nor elicited wide­spread ap­plause and com­men­da­tion “We will for­ever be grate­ful to the gov­er­nor for im­mor­tal­is­ing our fa­ther, for oth­ers had come be­fore him that didn’t re­mem­ber the le­ga­cies of our fa­ther. By that statute, the gov­er­nor stamped the road as Uru­ruka Road. He has im­mor­talised his name across gen­er­a­tions. Gov­er­nor Ik­peazu brought our fa­ther back to life,” de­clared Jus­tice Stel­la­maris Onyen­soh.

Chief Paul Uru­ruka’s mod­er­ate four-room bun­ga­low built in 1957 is an antique. Jus­tice Stel­la­maris says the house speaks of her fa­ther’s hu­mil­ity and his val­ues. She dis­closed that the then Premier of Eastern Nige­ria, Dr. M I Ok­para never al­lowed his cab­i­net mem­bers to buy prop­erty while in ser­vice in the GRA area of In­de­pen­dent Lay­out Enugu. Ok­para en­cour­aged his team to be self­less. “Even though my fa­ther’s best friend, Mouka, was the Min­is­ter of Lands, My fa­ther never ac­quired prop­erty in the GRA. You could ac­quire prop­erty any­where but not in the GRA. That was the in­struc­tion of the time and only one Min­is­ter flouted that in­struc­tion,” she dis­closed.

Chief Uru­ruka lived only for 60 years. His po­lit­i­cal ca­reer ended with the civil war. He died in 1970, im­me­di­ately af­ter the war. The statute there­fore is a memo­rial of a leg­endary States­man; a statute of honor and his­tory. It cap­tures an im­por­tant in­ter­jec­tion in the an­thro­po­log­i­cal jour­ney of the Ngwa man, serv­ing as flash­back to a glo­ri­ous time and epoch lost in the labyrinth of strange po­lit­i­cal com­plex­i­ties. It is a mon­u­ment of in­spi­ra­tion, both of cul­tural and po­lit­i­cal reawak­en­ing.

Gov­er­nor Ik­peazu, by the statute, gives an epic nar­ra­tion of the odyssey of a peo­ple. He res­ur­rected his­tory for pos­ter­ity and res­ur­rected a man.

Adindu is the Di­rec­tor- Gen­eral of the Abia State Ori­en­ta­tion Agency (ABSOA)

God­win Adindu, DG, Abia State Ori­en­ta­tion Agency and Hon. Jus­tice Stel­la­maris Onyen­soh, judge of Abia Cus­tom­ary Court of Ap­peal

L-R: Gowin Adindu and Tony Uru­ruka

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