Sunday, 23 April 2017

Life of an entrepreneurial maestro, archetype of refinement and candor

Tribute to an entrepreneurial maestro, archetype of refinement and candor

(Matthew Chukwujekwu Onuegbu Osineme; (1946-2016)

By Okechukwu Onuegbu

If you call him a book keeper or librarian, you are on a right track; for Chukwujekwu, like scholars and authors, duly documented everything about his life, including correspondences, circulars, writings, notes, receipts, pictures, artistic drawings, etc. that ever came his way in ten information boxes in his room.

He could also be described as an archaeologist because the dates and estimates of the house he built, the bicycle he bought at N100, properties and equipment are still in good condition till date.

Chukwujekwu , an entrepreneurial maestro and silent achiever, was the first surviving child of Onuegbunem Osineme (Eselu-enu-ego 1), the first son of great Osisi-na-eme-aku (Osineme) Ezenwude, one of the historical founders of Umuaba village, Ebenebe. His siblings include Mrs. Fidelia Eziogo Duba (nee Onuegbu), late Mr Augustine Nwarienne Onuegbu, Mrs. Unoego Victoria Onwuzuligbo (nee Onuegbu), late Mr Boniface, and late Nwankwo Onuegbu.

They were born by Onuegbu’s first wife, Nwaonu (child of happiness), who is the second daughter of late Chief Echiebu and Lolo Umerie from Umudiaba-uko kindred, Amankpu village, Mgbakwu, Awka North Local Government Area.

However, fate robbed them the fruits of parenthood following the transmogrification of both Onuegbu and his wife, Nwaonu at unripe age. Onuegbu joined his ancestors at a mysterious course; Boniface (their 5th child) followed suite; while Nwaonu died of excessive bleeding a day after her last child and set of twins, Nwakwo and Mgbonkwo sojourn on earth. Mgbonkwo was subsequently killed because Ebenebe, like other African countries of that century saw twins as sacrilege.

To surmount the challenges, Orphaned Chukwujekwu assumed fatherhood and motherhood of his toddler siblings. He subsequently dropped out of school against the wishes of his teachers, missionaries, in-charge of the then newly established Ebenebe Central Primary School. He was then the overall best pupil of the Standard Three class, and they were apparently hoping that he would retain his position in the next class, Standard Four, and probably, throughout his stay in the school.

Notwithstanding, Chukwujekwu maintained his pivotal role as a leading figure of the first set of Ebenebe Christian converts, a group of people that metamorphosed into Ebenebe Catholic community (comprising Ugbenu, Ugbene, Awba-ofemili, Mgbakwu and Amansea), now known as St. Joseph Catholic Church, Ebenebe (and lately, Ebenebe Catholic Denary). In the process, his Roman Catholic baptismal name “Matthew” gained much popularity in people’s tongue against his first and best name “Chukwujekwu (Chukwu-ji-okwu/Chukwu-je-kwulum/Chukwu-ga-ekwulum loosely translates as “God is the ultimate/God shall speak on my behalf/God takes final decision)” till date.

The quintessential Chukwujekwu sustained his parents’ farming occupation; specializing on yam, cassava, fruits and vegetables. With proceeds from his farm, he amazed his age mates and family by building a-two bedroom mud house with corrugated roofing sheet, first of its kind in Umuaba village and amongst the first set ever built in Ebenebe community. As a result, his people christened him “Jiga” (a farm instrument for harvesting yams and other deep-rooted tubers).

More so, the ardent lover of education ensured that his siblings remained in the school, while providing for their educational needs. But his maternal kinsmen, while sensing that their under-aged “nwa-di-ana” (grandchild) was over labouring himself, mounted pressure on him to join them at Mgbakwu. The dogged fighter, sometimes misconstrued as “stubborn boy,” however, resisted his “nnaochie’s” (maternal grandmother’s people) proposal, insisting that he preferred to labour and die in his father’s house than serve or die at their home.

The Echiebu family left “Chukwujekwue” alone, and took his siblings. The kids, who couldn’t bear staying without their loving and caring hardworking brother, quickly returned to him. Even the numerous persecutions and mysterious happenings meted to them by frienemies could not deter them from their father’s inheritance. He subsequently married at that tender age to Mrs. Lucy Nmanyelugo Onuegbu (nee Uzendu), a teenager like himself, and motherless virtuous daughter of Dominic Madukaife of Umunwokike village, Ebenebe.

The family, Chukwujekwu’s siblings, together with their stepbrothers, Nwamdife Okolie and Ofonyelu (both late), and cousins were living together in a place today known as “Onuegbu, Nweke and Anizoba compound” till the females got married, and the males sought for greener pastures across the states of federation.

During the Biafra-Nigeria civil war (albeit pogrom of the Igbo race), this docile yet fearless and outspoken no-nonsense team leader got actively involved in protecting his people from the hands of blood sucking demons coined “Nigerian/foreign troops”. Then, Chukwujekwu was the provost of Odozi Obodo Age Group Ebenebe (later renamed Ebenebe Town Union), and Grade 3 member of Ebenebe Development Advisory Committee chaired by late R. K. Ndubude. These community development groups constructed Ezu-Odori/Ebenebe/Mgbakwu bridge, as well as destroyed the same project to resist the intrusion of Nigerian troops to and fro the community and her surrounding environments.

In Chukwujekwu’s banks information are thousands of letters, receipts, invitation cards and other correspondence addressed to him as an Executive member, Odoziobodo Works Committee, detailing how they rebuilt the bridge at the end of civil war, constructed Ebenebe-Mgbakwu road, established Community Secondary School, Ebenebe, Umuaba village hall (through another group, Umuaba Progress Union Ebenebe/Umuaba Brotherly Union), Irunese Primary School Ebenebe, among other projects, as well as commendations they received from the defunct Biafran government, and Nigeria government that followed suit. This explained why, until his death, he advocated against war having understood firsthand the harrowing experience associated with war.

After the civil war in 1970, Chukwujekwu relocated to Ugwuaji, Am’akpu Ngwo in Enugu, then capital of Eastern State, where he rented apartment in the compound of Raphael Ozougwu (now late), and underwent training on livestock farming. A year after acquiring the requisite skills and knowledge, and setting-up the business, the cheerful giver came for his wife, their first child (Josephat), and househelp, Evelyn (now Mrs Evelyn Ekwunife).

At Enugu, the family welcomed their second child, Nwanneka Grace, and later, lost their first child, Josephat to a mysterious cause at 8 years old. The ill-fated event was accompanied by a fatal accident which nearly ended Chukwujekwu’s life abruptly. He had a head-on collision while travelling to purchase livestock feeds at Ogbete Enugu aboard his newly bought Gents Raleigh bicycle. The misfortune inflicted him with bone fractures, scratches and cuts on his head, legs, hands, and other parts of his body.

After the incident, it took the efforts of his wife, Nmanyelugo, their maid, Evelyn, and some apprentice under his care to maintain two square meals a day, and sustain the family livestock farm from collapsing. Upon quick recovery, Chukwujekwu learnt brick moulding (Ikpu-aja) at Nwabude Builders Uwani, Enugu in order to augment his income.
Later on, the ever joyful family moved back to the village where he continued with his livestock farming and mason.

These periods were quite distressful for Chukwujekwu as his wife was delivered of four more children (3 males and 1 female), who unfortunately died in quick succession. The couple was heartbroken and started making inquiry into how to break the jinx of untimely death. Which parents can bear to smile after losing five children within a space of time?
He was advised to reconstruct his late father (Onuegbu’s) Obi (palace/shrine). Onuegbu, during his life time, hold his father, Osineme’s Ofo (staff of truth/priesthood) before joining his ancestors.

Therefore, Chukwujekwu swiftly initiated the Obi construction, and the project was executed in a few months with support of his brother, stepbrothers and cousins (families of Nweke and Anizoba).
The ever smiling and archetype of refinement and candor later combined livestock farming with brick productions (blocks moulding), a project he was regularly contracted to execute both in his country-home and across shores. His nimbleness in masonry attracted him retinue of clients and apprentices more than his colleagues in the industry who started before him. Among the trainees (now experts) were Fidelis Nweke, late Ikeli Uwa, Nwankwo Ude, Ogbonnia Paschal, Opo Nweze (Paul Osineme), Morroco, Akudo of Ezeagu LGA, Nwafor, Benjamin, etc.

On discovering that about 85% of his clients hail from Enugu State (mostly Ezeagu, Udi, Aninri, Uzouwani, among other council areas), Chukwujekwu adopted the places as his second homes. From there, he traversed all parts of eastern Nigeria. It was during this period, Chukwujekwu discovered and answered his Divine Call as cultural revivalist/evangelist (which is Umuaba village’s heritage), officiating in such traditional rites as family cleansing, conferment of Ozo and other titles on deserving citizens, and other healthy African cultural practices. Umuaba, it would be recalled, in the mid-eighteenth century, migrated from Umuaba Urunnebo Enugwu-Ukwu (an enclave of Nri ancient kingdom), only holder of Ofo (Africa’s staff of truth/ office/Priesthood).

As Chukwujekwu traverses the world as African/Igbo Reverend Priest and bricks builder, he deeply engaged in philanthropy; offering charity works, dishing his wealth, cash gifts and experience to people, associations and society/communities on Pro Bono and sometimes at affordable rates. This he does even at home. Little wonder, the rich and the poor, young and old usually gather to celebrate his arrival at any place because he was known for offering them pocket money, kola nuts, bitter-kola and ego s’oji (some cash accompanying take-home kola which signifies a sign of warm welcome), okpa ekele (groundnuts), etc.

His enterprising wife, on the other hand, became famous in agriculture, her husband’s former occupation, and petty trading on agribusiness. In time, Chukwuokike abiama (omnipresence God) dried their tears with three additional children, Ndu-bu-isi (Life is supreme/life first), Onye-ma-ife-echi-g’abu (Who knows tomorrow/only God has answer to tomorrow), and Oke-chukwu-kelu-enwehi-nkeghari (God’s decision or share is final/whatever God created is unchangeable). God also helped Mr and Mrs Chukwujekwu to singlehandedly raise their children till they stood on their feet, although He (God for reasons beyond human comprehension) denied him time to enjoy his fruits of labour.

In politics, Chukwujekwu was also involved. There are circulars, receipts, letter of emergency meetings, voters’ cards, political party registrations cards, National Identity Cards, and other documents in his information boxes, including that of the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) Awka North Constituency Campaign office (then situated at Awba-Ofemili) which on 1st September, 1983 appointed him as a Supervising/Counting Polling Agent for the 1983 (old) Anambra State House of Assembly election contested by one Chief Ozo Ndu Forster Nwankwo as NPN candidate.

Others include Ebenebe vigilante group, Ebenebe Town Union, Umuogboo Youths Association, Umuaba Brotherly Union, Umuaba/Ebenebe Christians, Udoka Age Grade, Umuchiaku kindred, etc. where he functioned as co-founder, pioneer executive/active member, up-to-date financial member, money lender, financier, and meetings host/sponsor. Hence, it is needless to state that there are uncountable lifestyles of Chukwujekwu that times and space cannot provide for in this piece.

Like his father, Onuegbu (which connotes Say it as it is/the voice/my mouth or voice shall never lead me to trouble/bad luck), Chukwujekwu gained much accolades for being forthright, trustworthy, outspoken, humanitarian and religious. These include:
Rapucha (It’s well/Forgive and forget)
B’anyi (My brother/my people)
Uk’onu (The man of truth/say it as it is)
Eze ana-er’ifeya-ona-enwe-anuri (A cheerful giver/ the King that rejoices when people are enjoying his wealth)
Okwulu-ora (People’s voice/ the Speaker)
Eje-ana bu-isi-ije (Returning from a journey is the utmost)
Matiu Wanshi/Nwa Nri (African Cultural and Traditional Evangelist)
Jiga (Stubborn industrious man or dogged fighter)
Igwe Ndi-obia (the King of non-indigenous people/residents) 1 of Enugu State
Aka nri (the Right hand man/the man of truth) 1 of Umuaba village, Ebenebe.

Matthew Chukwujekwu Onuegbu Osineme, a man of many parts, whose biography can take over 20, 000 pages book, journeyed to the Beyond on Nkwo, Tuesday August 23rd 2016, and was committed to mother earth same day in accordance with the great African culture and Tradition. However, his funeral rite holds coming Thursday, afor market day (April 27, 2017).
Nna m, the Grammarian, rest on in the bosom of Lord Almighty. You shall forever be remembered by all.

NB: the author, Okechukwu Onuegbu is the deceased 9th (last child); a multimedia journalist, author, poet, web developer/host, blogger, artist, politician, etc. He chose not to add late to his departed father because he believes that he's still alive in spirit and through his legacies, children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, aunts, etc



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