Uche Ezechukwu: A media icon and great brother goes to rest
Saturday, February 27, 2021, was a solemn day for my wife and me. The previous day, we received news of the passing of Chief Uche Ezechukwu, a journalism heavyweight and a man I regarded as my mentor and elder brother.
Ezechukwu, known as Onwukwube Ndigbo, was just about everything anybody in the media world today would want to be. He was a celebrated author, a widely-read columnist, a highly sought-after speechwriter, a fearless journalist, and a multi-dimensional media entrepreneur. He served in various enviable positions, including as personal press secretary to General Emeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, Muhammadu Buhari’s presidential campaign spokesperson in 2003, member of the editorial boards of The Sun Newspaper and Authority. Also, he was instrumental in the founding of several newspapers in Nigeria, including Leadership.
A polyglot, Chief Ezechukwu distinguished himself right from his youth. He studied at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN), where he majored in communications studies and modern languages. As a student, he served as president of the Modern Languages Association, and he founded a monthly social campus magazine called Wasp. He ended up graduating as the best graduating student in his department in 1979. He is the author of “The Land of the Rising Sun”, a book exploring the Ndigbo experience. Throughout his colourful career, he used his voice to make a robust case for the advancement of Ndigbo. He was every definition of the word – ICON.
It has taken me a few days to write this. It has been difficult for me to comment on Ezechukwu’s death. I regarded him as a brother and mentor for decades up until his sad demise on Friday.
Onwukwube was a close friend and confidant of my late elder brother, Engr. Collins Ozigbo, an aeronautic engineer who died in the Sosoliso plane crash of 2005. We were distant cousins. Losing him refreshes the painful loss of my brother, who was my mentor and best friend. Together, they both had a profound impact on my life. Their wisdom guided me. Their brotherly love upheld me. In the devastation and emotional low that followed my brother’s death, I recall running to him to help me draft my brother’s tribute.
My elder brother’s death in such tragic and sudden circumstance helped to deepen my relationship with Uche. Our warm relationship extended to his wife and children. One of his daughters, Georgette, became like a mentee to me. When I was the MD/CEO of Trancorp Hotels Plc, I employed her temporarily, and when she wedded, my wife and I played a significant role at the wedding.
When I decided on my current project to liberate Anambra and renew our greatness, Chief Ezechukwu was the first media professional I consulted. He was so kind as to assemble the first team of journalists who supported us. Most of them are still actively supporting our project to this day. Being a long-standing professional with deep connections and relationships in the media industry and politics, Onwukwube was approached by a friend to work on a similar project. Being a man of honour, he could not go back on earlier promises to his friend.
When Onwukwube took that decision, some people didn’t understand friendship dynamics, erroneously concluded that Ezechukwu and I had fallen out. That couldn’t be further from the truth. I understood why he decided to accept his friend’s offer, and it did not in any way affect our cordial friendship and kinship. Our communication was always as warm as they were frequent. This last Christmas, our families shared gifts and pleasant seasons wishes of goodwill. Indeed, his passing is a huge blow to my family and me.
It turns out that his last Facebook post on February 2, 2021 was one in which he mourned the passing of Prince Tony Momoh, a former information minister and asked the question while added a prayer, “When will it be my turn? Only God knows. None can evade or avoid its call. Oh God, keep us ready at all times.”
The outpouring of tributes that greeted Onwukwube’s death is a testament to the influence that he had in his industry and the nation. Indeed, he will be missed by those who knew him and even more by those who loved him.
Today, I pray as he did for Momoh earlier this month. May God bless Onwukwube’s soul.
Valentine Ozigbo is an award-winning global CEO, a change-maker, and a champion for continuous improvement. He is on a mission to change the world by raising the consciousness of humanity. He is the immediate past President and Group CEO of Transcorp Plc, a conglomerate with interests in hospitality, power and oil and gas. He is the Chairman of Feet ‘N’ Tricks International, the largest promoter of freestyle football in Africa and the Founder of Valentine Chineto Ozigbo Foundation, a non-profit focused on youth empowerment and building future leaders.
Valentine Ozigbo is a governorship aspirant in Anambra State.
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