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Ezeazu: Finest Activist Goes Home In Style

By Itunu Ajayi, Abuja
05 July 2015   |   1:54 am
THE Deputy Sunday Editor of The Guardian, Mr. Alabi Williams, had asked that I speak with Emma on the land swap policy of the Federal Government in order to boost a report I was working on. He had been a major crusader inquest for the original inhabitants of the FCT to get compensation for their…
Ezeazu

Ezeazu

THE Deputy Sunday Editor of The Guardian, Mr. Alabi Williams, had asked that I speak with Emma on the land swap policy of the Federal Government in order to boost a report I was working on.

He had been a major crusader inquest for the original inhabitants of the FCT to get compensation for their land, taken over by the government for infrastructural development of the capital city.

When I told him of my intention on the phone and he reeled out his programme for the next two weeks, I knew I might not be able to turn in the report, if I waited until he was ready. So, we agreed that I catch up with him at a meeting he was to attend the following day at Protea Hotel in Apo. ‘Call me when you arrive,’ he had concluded.

On arrival at the agreed time, I put a call through to him. ‘Ha! I am hooked up here. But wait for me at the lobby. I will come down, now, just for 5 minutes.’ After waiting a while, I became restless. I decided to go up the stairs, to meet him. As I climbed, I wondered if the man I was going up to meet had not even passed by me. I had never met him. At the first floor, I asked about Emma from a man who looked to me like one of the organisers of the meeting. ‘He had just gone down,’ he said, pointing to the stairs. I ran down to the lobby. There was a well-built, fair-complexioned man in white, with a pair of glasses in his hand, searching with his eyes for someone he also had never met. Instinctively, I knew he was the one. I walked up to him. ‘You are from The Guardian, right? But I told you I would be coming down to meet you,’ he said.

And for 15 minutes, he came down hard on the land swap policy of the Federal Government. He spoke so passionately about the cause of the original inhabitants. By his name, I knew he was not a native of the FCT. So, in curiosity, I asked where he hailed from. He answered, ‘Onitsha, in Anambra State.’ It seemed he read through me when he added, ‘I am a Nigerian; I can do the same thing I am doing for the FCT people in Lagos, Katsina or anywhere, for that matter.’

We met again a couple of times at the annual heritage day of the original inhabitants. He was always around to deliver a talk. He was, however, conspicuously absent at the 2015 edition. The last time I saw him was when he picked the ticket for the race to the House of Representatives, hoping to be the ‘eyes’ and ‘ears’ of Abuja residents. I knew something was wrong. I saw a tired and exhausted man, despite the facade he tried to put on, smiling at supporters. Supported by two men, he went into a waiting vehicle immediately after the event. I remembered that I told the president of the Original Inhabitants Development Association (OIDA), Danladi Jeji, and the Deputy Editor that I did not like what I saw of Emma; he did not look quite okay. I spoke with him on the phone, once, after that, and thereafter, his line became perpetually switched off. He never responded to all the SMS I sent, inquiring about his wellbeing.

On May 18, Emma succumbed to the cold hands of death. He struck me as a man in a hurry; it seemed he worked all the time, conscious of the axiom: ‘make hay while the sun shines’. Perhaps, he was aware his would be short but eventful years

Since then, things have never been the same with his family, friends and associates. His associates began preparation for his journey home on Monday in Abuja with a colloquium chaired by Professor Asisi Asobie, who said he knew Emma in his post graduate days at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. The Professor remembered Emma as a man who never feared death. He said the only thing that should be paramount in the minds of people is the kind of legacy they leave behind; not the number of years they spend on earth. He said the ideal template for discussion at the colloquium should rather be a celebration of the life and time of Emma, and not mourning. According to him, Emma has cheated death, as his name would be written in gold in the annals of history.

The president of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Ayuba Wabba, the chair of the memorial committee, John Oda, and other friends and associates of Emma paid glowing tributes and called for a rejuvenation of synergy between students’ union body and Labour, as it was when Emma held sway as NANS president for three consecutive times.

A service of songs was held to honour the departed at The Redeemed Evangelical Mission (TREM), Utako, where Emma was member until he died. Taking references from relevant portions of the Bible, Pastor Max Gbinije enjoined families, friends and well wishers to take solace in the fact that death is a necessary end, which will come when it will. He said every living being must taste death at one point or the other. This truth, he said, should resonate in the minds of people always, so that they can constantly watch the way they live and treat others.

Some of those who attended the service described Emma as a bridge builder, a philanthropist, a man of many parts, and one who would forfeit his own comfort in order to satisfy the needs of others. They said that although Emma had passed on, his memory would linger in the minds of those he had touched.

He would be remembered for his crusade to free the oppressed from their oppressors.

His remains have since been committed to mother earth in Onitsha.