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Evans Njinye Woji: Daylight @ midnight

By Godwin Afam Nkemdiche
28 October 2022   |   3:22 am
Caught up in steep emotions as l am, l had found it simply impossible to decide on the composition of a tribute to my best earthly friend, Engr. Evans Njinye Woji.

Caught up in steep emotions as l am, l had found it simply impossible to decide on the composition of a tribute to my best earthly friend, Engr. Evans Njinye Woji. At length, however, a semblance of draft-composition was decided, but finding the appropriate first words to express my thoughts proved just as confounding. So, l should crave the indulgence of all to permit me to start by sharing our departing friend, colleague, brother, father, and grandfather’s idea of how the gravity of the passing of a loved one finally creeps in on the human mind.

In the short period he served as Rivers State’s chairman of the Action Alliance (AA) Party, Njinye had undertaken frequent trips by road from Port Harcourt to Abuja, and back. Njinye had confided in me that almost without failing, his heartthrob and darling wife, Stella, had an uncanny habit of checking up progress of his return journeys at a particular hour which, saving unforeseen circumstances, always coincided with a particular area in Okene, kogi State.

Several months following the sudden passing of the ever-smiling large-hearted lady, and long after he presumed he had fully rid himself of the emotions of his irreparable loss, Njinye arrived at that particular area in Okene and, on impulse, was subconsciously expecting that priceless checkup call from his wife… The call did not come on that day. The call would never come again. “Boy!”, Njinye breathed to me in suppressed emotions, “that was when it really hit me; the greater part of me was gone forever. I couldn’t hold back the tears…” he further confided, averting his face.
Borrowing liberally from Njinye’s perspective, therefore, l should like to submit that try as we might in the present, we never could accurately evaluate the full weight of our collective loss, until long following Njinye’s passing, when time and cyclic rituals begin to unravel the hitherto unknown huge space he had filled in our lives. This is more so for those of us who have had a life-long relationship with Njinye. He and l had crossed paths in 1971 in our first year at Electro Technical College, Asaba, in present day Delta State. We were classmates, and had hit it off at first sight, as it were. The fledgling teenagers had had no problem whatever in figuring out that they were “two birds of a plumage”.

Njinye’s remarkable qualities soon became evident. His colleagues, myself in particular, and the academic staffs couldn’t help but notice. He had been just as outstanding in academic performance as he was in unusual self-possession and in general conduct. Thus, Njinye had consistently aroused our curiosity. He didn’t carry himself like a typical teenager; we, his classmates, invariably were compelled to look to him as a “big brother”, going to him in secret to seek his advice on the many issues that plague teenagers. I can authoritatively confirm that Njinye proved he was worth his projected weight in gold. He amazingly lived up to the billing of a big brother, much to the delight of us all. In addressing any of us, Njinye would always preface each sentence with the word “Boy!”, in a voice that didn’t belong to a teenager as a reminder of sorts that, though we are classmates he, however, was already a man! We in our turn would call him, “Boy!!!” in mock remonstrance.

At the completion of our college education in 1973, it was unanimously agreed that Njinye had been the most impactful student of our class. It was a feat.

My friendship with that impeccably turned out student from Rivers State necessarily entered its next phase after 1973. I am aware Njinye’s abridged biography would be available herein, l would therefore confine my remarks on his post-1973 life to the one attribute that stood him apart from the common run of humanity. For me, it was his ever compelling presence which commanded you to trust him. No matter how perplexing or challenging the situation might have been, Njinye’s presence had an inexplicable way of compelling you to trust his interpretation and judgment of the situation.

It was a kind of benign magic. From 1971 to 2022 l didn’t find that magic wanting, even once! That magic was as likely his greatest gift; and it distinguished him from Electro College, Asaba; to Gateway Tech, and University of Wisconsin, both in the United States of America; to Nigerian Fertilizer Company, and Peoples Democratic Party, both in Port Harcourt through to the AA Party, Abuja.

Upon close reflections on Njinye’s life, it’s incontrovertible to liken him to a kind of light to illuminate very foggy pathways for his fellow human beings. And in a thickly beclouded post-Civil War Nigeria, where the word “trust” has since virtually taken flight, unique personages as Njinye as soon loom large as sunlight in the pitch darkness of night. Indeed, would anyone with real knowledge of the man doubt that Njinye was Daylight @ Midnight? I’ll leave you to ponder the question, but not before informing that my life has been abundantly richer for crossing paths with this remarkable man. And, as l resolutely believe that life is a continuum, l fervently look to once again crossing paths with my best earthly friend beyond this planet.

For now, l should like to say “Boy! A million thanks for your impact! Bon voyage to Abraham’s bosom.

Nkemdiche, MNSE, is an Engineer.

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