By Myke Uzendu, Abuja
As the funeral rites of former Minister of Information and Presidential aspirant of the National Republican Convention (NRC) Dr. Joseph Nwodo kicks off, former Minister of External Affairs and Chairman of defunct NRC Tom Ikimi during his evening of tribute on Sunday in Abuja disclosed while the political icon despite his sagacity was denied opportunity of becoming the country’s President and pioneer governor of Enugu state.
The late academic giant who had the following titles, Agadagbachiri Uzo 1 of Ukehe, Ochendo Umu Ogbenye, Anaegbu Echara Echara Anaefuchi and was described as a quintessential leader and grass root political motivator.
Ikimi who gave an insight into what transpired at the NRC National Convention in Port Hacourt that led to the emergence of Bashir Tofa as the candidate of the party instead of Nwodo in 1993, said that everyone had expected that late Nwodo will be the Presidential candidate of the party during the botched republic. He said that as Nwodo mounted the podium to unleash his oratory and grammatical eloquence on the already waiting crowd, the public address system failed making it difficult for him to marshal out his well articulated political manifesto which could have convinced the delegated to give him their votes.
“Nnia Nwodo was an epitome of excellence, during his presidential campaign in Port Hacourt, they muddle up the microphone so that people will not hear what he was saying. If he had been allowed to marshal his point, he would have won that Presidential election” Ikimi stated.
The Peoples Democratic Party Board of Trustee Member and Chairman of the party’s Disciplinary Committee further disclosed that when Joe Nwodo was also about to be elected as the pioneer governor of Enugu state, the government of General Ibrahim Babangida disqualified him for security reasons. He said when Nwodo came to his office in tears, he was given the opportunity to appoint another candidate and hence his younger brother Okwesilieze was made governor in his stead
Ikimi who spoke on behalf of the defunct NRC and accompanied by Chief Stephen Lawani, the then Deputy National Secretary of the party said, “Joe was a great orator and had all the pedigree to emerge victorious at that election, his major rival was Hyde Onuaguluchi but he was disqualified by the military government of Ibrahim Babangida for security reasons.
“After his disqualification, he came to my office weeping and I asked him to bring any body and I will make him governor, so he brought his younger brother, Okwesilieze and I made him governor. He had no tax certificate then but I told them to ignore it. So Okwesilieze was the governor but the real governor was Joe Nwodo”.National Chairman of Peoples Democratic Party, Prince Uche Secondus in his speech, recounted that he met Nwodo as state publicity Secretary of NRC. He lamented that at the Port Harcourt convention, if Nigerian was an advanced country, Joe would have been declared the Presidential candidate of NRC and the whole Nigeria would have voted for him. He likened the speech of late Nwodo to that of former American President, Barack Obama.
“Joe’s rhetoric was next to none, he can convince everyone in one minute. He speech was spell bound and all of us were convinced that he was the next president of this country. Joe was a manager of people per excellence. He knows the right word to put across at every moment and he will catch your attention. He was a great manager of human beings” said Secondus.
Also in his tribute, Senator Ibrahim Mantu who was the chairman of the occasion described Nwodo as a great man with so many caps, an excellent administrator and a political icon.
Mantu said that his brief encounter with the deceased was a confirmation of his humility despite his great wealth of experience and political sagacity.
Minister of Science and Technology and pioneer governor of Abia State, Ogbonnaya Onu said that there is no honour that can be given to Nwodo that will be enough because he was a unique personality.
“If he had contested that election in 1991, he could have been my colleague, serving in Enugu while I was serving in Umuahia.
“Joe Nwodo was a man of great ambition and his command of English language was excellent, his ideas were unique. He was interested in finding expatriates to reactivate the coal mine in Enugu which at that period was going into extinction” Onu said.
Prof. Georage Obiozor, President General of Ohaneze Ndigbo in his tribute added that Nwodo was a man full of life and he enjoyed great thing, loved the world and made friendship across board.
“His life was charity to all, enemy to none. He was a great academician and a genius, he was a great soul” he said.
“Today the country is in crises, we are even afraid if we can get home but I believe that the spirit of Joe Nwodo will intervene. We missed a talented icon both in leadership and in law”.
Dr. Chris Ngige, minister of Labour and Employment in his tribute said that Joe Nwodo was the best presidential material for Nigeria which we never had.
He accused NRC refusing to give ticket to Nwodo, adding that if it were in the present dispensation, all hell will be let loose if it were the All Progressives Congress (APC) that had denied him the party ticket.
“He was friend of the masses, he was not materialistic had a very good upbringing and showed a good example, politics did not change him, any money he had, he shared it to all” Ngige stated.
In his welcome address Joe’s younger brother, Dr. Okwesilieze Nwodo said that the last seven days of his brothers life was full of health challenges but pointed out that his rate of recovery after each crises was beyond medical explanation. He said he was a companion to his family and a leader in his political circle.
According to Senator Chuka Utazi who spoke for Enugu North Senatorial district, said, “His intellect was formidable as his mind was a library. He was second to none in his commitment to PAN Africanism, eager to transform the continent and eliminate hunger and poverty.
“He was a joy to his family, friend and humanity. He was too good to be born into this world and the world will surely miss him”.
Nwodo died in a London hospital on March 10 at the age of 77. Announcing his death, Emeka Nwodo his son in a statement said described his father as “a social phenomenon, a man who wrote the most brilliant and sesquipedalian speeches. Gigantesque in size and in intellect. Many referred to his intellectual and literary ability as “a gift,” “inborn”, “a knack,” “a talent.”
“One thing was certain; Joe Nwodo operated on a literary frequency higher than most, one that could only be compared to a supernatural being, “god-like.” He was indeed a rare breed, a mastermind and genius of our time”.
Burial ceremonies will hold in Ukehe on Saturday June 5, 2021 at his residence after a funeral mass at St Peter’s Catholic Church, Ukehe.
The event was attended by guests from all works of life including: Former Imo state governors Emeka Ihedioha and Achike Udenwa, former Minister of Petroleum Don Etiebet, former governor of Anambra State Peter Obi, former Minister of State Foreign Affairs, Dubem Onyia.Other are founding Chairman AIT Raymond Dokpesi,Prof. ABC Nwosu, House Minority Leader Hon. Ndudi Elumelu, Eze Igbo 1 of Abuja, HRH Ibe Nwosu, Gen. Chris Garba, Osita Okechukwu, DG, Voice of Nigeria (VON) and many other dignitaries.