By Oseloka Zikora
I have struggled to begin this write-up partly because it is been difficult coming to terms that my beloved father-in-law, Pa Wilifred Chukwuemeka Okonkwo, the one I fondly call Ezenwaka Global is no more. Ezenwaka had a larger than life presence in our lives, his lively voice, the smiling face, the teasing mischievous chuckle, the gentle disposition, his ever infectious optimistic approach to life and issues, that it seemed that no way could such a force be diminished.
Yet death has come and taken a profoundly gracious and genial gentleman, leaving us fond memories that keep flowing with resurgent vigour. At the sound of my salute of ‘Ezenwaka Na Nibo’, he would respond with a teasing chuckle ‘Oseloka ndi ngaha’! Now for the uninitiated, that sobriquet meant “Oseloka of his people”, apparently his final resort after the several unsuccessful attempts at getting me to choose a traditional title with which to customarily and fittingly return my hailing salute anytime I visit.
Uniquely Ezenwaka to coin such a sobriquet. I would graduate the salute “Ezenwaka Na Nibo” to “Ezenwaka Global” as my teasing acknowledgement of his trip to Vienna to visit his first son, Emeka.
Ezenwaka would always engage in sublime conversations, from current affairs to succinct analysis of the political landscape and policy issues, to gentle probing to ascertain the state of personal affairs, to giving valuable advice ingrained with uncommon wisdom.
Any time spent with him was a school in itself, treasured, full of compassion and love from a man who cared so deeply about family.
He welcomed me from the beginning, was kind enough to grant me the hand of his fairy Princess in marriage, the one he fondly called Ochokwa. Apart from his blessings bringing good fortunes upon the union these past 24 years and counting, he took my kids not as grandchildren, but as his children. At a time, he did school runs for the first grandson, Somto, taking pleasure in ferrying him to and from his nursery school in Enugu with his Peugeot car.
An old boy of Merchants of Light School, Oba, Pa Okonkwo had a distinguished career with the Nigerian Railway Corporation where he retired in 1989 after 35 years of dedicated service. He later joined the Transport Company of Anambra State (TRACAS) where he worked as Transport Supervisor and later Depot Manager from 1990 to 1996.
A devout Christian of the Anglican Communion, Pa Okonkwo is survived by Mrs Catherine Okonkwo, his wife of almost 57 years, and five surviving children, Chukwuemeka Okonkwo, Chukwunenye Okonkwo, my wife, Nkiru, and two other daughters Ifeoma and Chinyelu Okonkwo. He had lost two children, first daughter, Ekene and youngest son, Chijioke, in the journey of life.
Ezenwaka Global, what can I say, we had hoped to have you here forever but God says time here is not eternal. He blessed you with long life filled with His goodness and noteworthy accomplishments. We are the better for the times shared together, for the good name and legacy, and the hope of eternity which comes from the faith you professed and shared with us.
Pa Wilfred Chukwuemeka Okonkwo aka Ezenwaka, aged 91 will be laid to rest in his family compound, Umuka-Ezeawulu, Nibo after a funeral service at the St. Mathew’s Anglican Church, Nibo, Friday 17th September.
* Zikora, a Public Affairs Analyst and Communications Consultant, writes from Abuja.