By Abdullahi Yelwa
Renowned journalist, philanthropist and my dear friend and brother, Uche Ezechukwu is no more. He died peacefully Friday. Uche saw his death. He revealed this to us in many words. In his last post on his Facebook page, Uche had lamented the death of Sam Ndah Isiah, among others:
“When will it be my turn?” he had asked.
” Only God knows,” he lamented.
In his Roman Catholic tradition and doctrinal upbringing, he asserted rather fatalistically that “none can evade or avoid it’s call.”
As would any patron of St Malumba, he concluded with a prayer: “Oh God keep us ready at all times.”
Uche was more than a friend or brother to me. I first met Uche in 1987 at the Nigerian Economist Magazine, Lagos, where we both worked at the time. It was like love at first sight. Uche was at the time also the personal aide to Chief Odumegu Ojukwu, the former Biafran leader.
As a journalist, Uche was every editor’s delight. He was courageous, meticulous, resourceful and timely. When you have a big story to write and a deadline to meet, Uche is the man for the job.
Uche’s reach and contact was also beyond imagination. In our active days in the Fourth Estate, Uche knew conceivably every newsmaker that is worthy of note. He brought to Nigerian journalism his Oriental/Republican temperament noteworthy of a proud Ndigo man that he was. With Uche, you always know where he stands or where he wouldn’t stand, He doesn’t always subscribe to the binary vision of two sides to a story in journalism. Rather, he holds “truth” and “accuracy” to be self evident.
Uche’s temperaments are not always distant from his journalistic focus. He believes that the work of a journalist must also be a reflection of the person, without necessarily being its subject matter. He is therefore often thunderous and angry in life, as in his works.
In one of his most celebrated and important books, The Land of the Risen Sun, coined from “The Land of the Rising Sun” of the Biafran motto, Uche argued that the Ndigbos have indeed long risen from the defeat of the Nigerian Civil War. With the accuracy of a statistician and meticulousness of social science researcher, Uche paints a picture of a resurgent race that had emerged from the depth of despite to the limelight of a post war Nigeria.
To say Uche is a true Nigerian is tantamount to a cliché. I am yet to meet an individual who knew Nigeria and loved it as did Uche. He was not only knowledgeable about Nigeria’s ethnic ecosystem, but also easily at home in any of its parts.
I had never thought I would write a eulogy for Uche. The thought of him dyeing before me never crossed my mind. In our usual wild and often child-like jokes, we could say anything to each other and never feared being misunderstood or misconstrued. I could indeed say anything to Uche and get away with it. No speech between us is a hate speech and no topic is off limits. Anytime my family heard me laugh ceaseless and uncontrollably, they know it must be Uche at the other end of the phone. It was even worse when we met in person.
Uche can be very temperamental. But he was always sincere and genuine. He stood for what he believed and had no qualms expressing his views.
Uche was my best friend, not because we always agreed, but because of the love and respect we had for one another. Though we came from different backgrounds, we had a chemistry. Life without Uche would therefore be incomplete for me. Rest in peace, Uche. Amaka and the Ezechukwu girls, please take heart. Take consolation in the knowledge that you have been part of the life of one the most amazing human beings that ever lived.