Nigerians bid Ezeife farewell, pass baton to Governor Soludo, Anambra State By LAW MEFOR 

Chief Chukwuemeka Ezeife
Former Anambra State Governor, late Chief Chukwuemeka Ezeife


The grand burial plan of the late sage, Dr. Chukwuemeka Ezeife, is tripartite. The first is the national burial, which just concluded in Abuja; the second is the Anambra state burial of the late statesman; and the third is the Igbo customary burial by his hometown, Igbo-Ukwu.

When the national burial committee was inaugurated on February 8 by the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Benjamin Kalu, the outline indicated that the burial would be like none other. And it is turning out exactly as predicted. The last lap of the three-part national burial programme, which culminated in the Night of Tributes, was held at the Thisday Dome in Abuja on Monday, April 15.

The national burial started on April 12 with the Service of Songs at the National Christian Centre Abuja, where the interdenominational church service, which had even some Muslims in attendance, took place. Ezeife himself was an elder in the Salvation Army Christian Church, which took charge of the Service of Songs proceedings. The Catholic Archbishop Emeritus of Abuja, His Eminence John Cardinal Onaiyekan, gave the sermon, which was tagged with a message of hope.

The colourful Service of Songs, which had the arena filled, was the way Christians bid farewell to Ezeife as one of their own. The service of songs dates back to ancient biblical times. 1 Chronicles 6:31 reads: “Now these are the men whom David appointed over the service of song in the house of the Lord after the ark came to rest.”

The phrase “the service of song” is fascinating. The Hebrew term “yad,” which means “hand,” is translated as “service” in English. It seems that the Jews were using their hands to make music to glorify the Lord. Usually, when one thinks of service, one imagines effort of some kind. When one thinks about serving, adjectives like lifting, lugging, working, and sweating come to mind. Here, nevertheless, we are reminded that providing music can be a lovely and straightforward way to serve and thank God for a life well lived, such as that of Chukwuemeka Ezeife.

In great songs, the church, or perhaps more accurately, the Christians, bade Ezeife farewell. Salvation Army, the Twelve Apostles Catholic Church Abuja, and the Christian Association of Nigeria(CAN) choirs and soloists were indeed performing at the highest level. The Timbrel song performance should be the most memorable, perhaps. The very young group performed the larger-than-life song, asking God to part the sea so that His people—in this case, Chukwuemeka Ezeife—could reach a safe place and ascend into heavenly realms.

Around 10 p.m., the enormous assembly that had gathered for Ezeife’s service of songs dispersed to make way for the celebration of Chukwuemeka Ezeife’s life and times the next day, Saturday, April 13.

At the hallowed Velodrome of the Moshood Abiola National Stadium in Abuja, the commemoration of Dr. Chukwuemeka Ezeife’s life and time got underway at about noon. President General Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu chaired it, with Chief Osita Okechukwu, a former Director General of Voice of Nigeria (VON), representing him. It was essentially Ndigbo in the Federal Capital Territory, and their friends were celebrating Ezeife. It welcomed a sizable number of friends from different Nigerian tribes. It was a massive exhibition of Igbo traditional dances from about 500 Igbo communities in Abuja.

The rich cultural heritage of the Igbo people is adorned with masquerades and traditional dances. Put another way, without masquerades—of which Ijele is the best—an Igbo cultural exhibition would be incomplete. Numerous such ceremonial masquerades participated in the life and times celebration held at the Abuja National Stadium in honour of Ezeife.

The majority of these Igbo associations, including ASPOF, ASTRA, and Ohanaeze, were supported by Ezeife as patrons. This explains why these well-known Igbo organisations performed extraordinarily well all through the activities of his life and times celebration, the song service, and the Night of Tribute, which was held on Monday at the Thisday Dome in Abuja.

The Vice President of Nigeria represented Ezeife and served as the special guest of honour for the Night of Tributes for Ezeife, which was chaired by former Ogun State Governor Segun Osoba. There was full representation from the elite of Nigerian politics, business magnates, and cultural institutions, including Arewa, the Middle Belt Forum, Ohanaeze, Afenifere, and the Niger Delta. Even the 96-year-old nonagenarian Pa Ayo Adebanjo had to pay his last respects via Zoom.

Senate Presidents, Governors, Senators, members of the House of Representatives, Ministers, and other high-ranking government officials, both current and former, fought for time and room to offer their tributes to the legend. The event had to be extended until nearly midnight to allow enough dignitaries sufficient time and space.

The national burial for Okwadike came to an end on that magnificent Monday night in Abuja, the nation’s capital. The appreciative Nigerian leaders and people from all walks of life said goodbye to the late legend and passed to Professor Chukwuma Soludo, the governor of Anambra State, the baton to oversee Anambra State’s burial for the late sage, who also happened to be the state’s first executive governor.

The funeral for Ezeife in Anambra State, which will take place on Friday, April 19, is expected to be yet another epochal event. Thereafter, the state governor, Soludo, would also pass the baton to Ezeife’s hometown, Igbo-Ukwu, for conclusion with the Igbo burial rites. The final event that will bring the entire interment to a close will be a family Thanksgiving on Sunday, April 21.

The average lifespan of a person is around 80 years or 29,000 days. Ezeife departed at the age of 86. As a result, he went above and beyond what most people would expect. A rare life status for someone from his extremely low beginnings was also attained by him.

Life lessons can be learned from the unusual funeral of Ezeife. Nigerians and Ndigbo paid him an unusual amount of attention during his national funeral. Dr. Okwesilieze Nwodo, the national burial committee chairman, made hints during the inauguration that Ndigbo will use Ezeife’s burial as a platform to address those who suggest that the Igbo people are not united. It transpired precisely as Dr. Nwodo, the former national chairman of the PDP and governor of Enugu State, had prophesied.

The overarching lesson is that, as Ezeife’s life has abundantly demonstrated, integrity and true leadership pay off. Ndigbo value their true leaders and shun charlatans.

Lastly, Ezeife’s death serves as a reminder that life is fleeting and only lasts a moment. It will be gone at dawn, just like the morning dew. Each end of life therefore proves one thing: life is but a vapour and eternal life can only commence when the present life comes to an end. So, as the poet John Donne said, death be not proud.

Dr. Chukwuemeka Ezeife, good bye. We now pray for someone to step up and take up where you left off, filling the gap you have left in Igbo leadership with your departure. We wish we didn’t have to bid each other adieu. However, it is God’s will, so we must say it. Goodbye. Ka Chi Foo, the authentic leader and “true giant among men,” to borrow from the eulogy of His Excellency Vice President Kashim Shettima at the Night of Tributes.

· Dr. Law Mefor, an Abuja-based forensic and social psychologist, is a fellow of The Abuja School of Social and Political Thought;; Twitter: @Drlawsonmefor.


The OPINION / COLUMN is authored by independent contributors to the National Accord Newspaper. While contributors adhere to our editorial guidelines, they are not employed by the National Accord Newspaper. The perspectives and opinions expressed herein are solely those of the author and do not represent the views of the National Accord Newspaper or its staff.

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