Eze Awa Nwosu Iroh: A Quintessential leader (1928 — 2020)
Albert Pike, the late American author, poet and jurist, in one of his dictums, said: “What we have done for ourselves alone dies with us; what we have done for others and the world remains and is immortal.”
His Royal Highness, Eze Awa Nwosu Iro (JP), the late Onyiriegbe of Akanu Ukwu Autonomous Community, Ohafia in Abia State would by his boosterish actions while on earth continued to live in the hearts of his people.
Like the towering Iroko tree, he saw farthest what his contemporary could not see, but was constrained to act. Despite his deterrence, the Onyiriegbe, who also doubled as the Ezie Umunna Ukwu was a quintessential leader. He was a paragon of virtue, an advocate of peace, a culture impresario, a model and a man that crave community development.
Born on March 7, 1928, to Nna Nwosu Iroh and Nne Uzoaru Ugorji of Ndi Okoro Compound in Ekeluogo, Akanu, Eze Iroh by his birth became a member of Nna Ukwu Omezua Royal Family and Umu Olugu Maternal Kindred.
Growing up, young Iroh lived with his paternal uncle Nna Udo Awa, where he learnt the ropes of buying and selling before venturing into business with five Shillings, start-up capital he got from his maternal uncle, Nna Oru Njoku.
With dogged determination, his business flourished so much that the Akanu Progressive Union (APU), which today has metamorphosed to Akanu Development Union (ADU) joined him alongside established adults to pay the compulsory monthly contributions at meetings and also other levies such as contributing to the union’s scholarship scheme.
In April 1942, young Iro’s dream of going to school came to fruition, when his elder brother Nnanna Okoro Iroh enrolled him in the Church of Scotland Mission (CSM) School, now Ukpacha Primary School, Akanu, Ohafia. From Ukpacha Primary School, he gained admission into Hope Waddel Training Institute (HWTI), Calabar; finishing in 1952 with a Senior Cambridge School Certificate (SCSC) at the first sitting. This opened doors for other certificates in other fields, including Supply and Materials Management (SMM); Institute of Materials Handling (AMIMH); and Stores and Material Controllers (MASMC) all in London.
He served in different capacities at the Post and Telegraph (P&T) Department (now Nigeria Postal Services, NIPOST, and Nigeria Telecommunication Ltd. (NITEL) from 1953 to 1956.
On January 24, 1956, he joined the services of the then Eastern Nigerian Government as a Senior Stores Assistant (Grade III) in the Government Printing Press, Enugu and by dint of hard work, rose to become the Higher Stores Officer (HSO) and gradually moved to become Chief Stores Officer (CSO) before retiring in 1991, after 35 years of meritorious service in the civil service.
With the creation of Imo State from the then East Central State in 1976, the task of establishing the Government Press Stores fell upon him and he successfully did it for the young state. His prowess was again put to test in 1979 when he was called to help pool all stores’ staff under the Ministry of Finance together, which he also accomplished in good fate.
From 1979 to1991, he served different ministries in diverse and varied capacities, including the Ministry of Public Utilities, Works, and Health Management Board (HMB).
While still in service, his royal highness participated actively in various committee assignments outside his normal duties either as chairman or as secretary.
In 1990, he was appointed Administrative Secretary of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) for Isu Local Council of Imo State.
And in retirement, he demonstrated that he was not tired of undertaking further assignments, which showed in 1992 when he was recalled seven months into retirement by the then Abia State Governor, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, to organise and set up the Inspectorate Division for the office of the State Accountant General.
For his zeal to see things work out well, in March 1993, he was appointed chairman of the Revenue Collection Monitoring Committee in the office of the Commissioner of Finance, Abia State. He also served in a five-man committee that prepared a position paper on the effects of Modified Value Added Tax (MVAT) on state government with emphasis on Abia State. He was also Director of, Abia State Scholarship Board.
Ezie Iro was no less active in his immediate community — Akanu, ANIA and Ohafia. There is hardly any development project in these communities that he did not have major input.
He participated vigorously in the activities of his Mbaisiagu Age Grade, Akanu, Ohafia and performed the Igba Uche ceremony (traditional retirement) in 1974.
To see his people acquire technical education, he partnered with four like-minded elites to bring Government Technical College (GTC), ANIA, Ohafia. He also initiated that electricity is extended to Akanu and the entire ANIA community, aside from playing a major role in bringing ANIA Water Scheme. He was the first Secretary-General of Akanu Development Association (ADA) formed in 1970 in Enugu to replace the Akanu Progressive Union (APU) and later the financial secretary. Under their administration, two footbridges were built — the first-ever for Akanu people — to access their farms, especially during the rainy seasons. He also held other positions including, Secretary of School Committee (for Akanu); ADA Chairman; ANIA Union Chairman, among others.
Following the tussle over Ezeogo stool in Akanu, he joined other nonpareils to make peace reign. It was in recognition of his services to the community that the Enyinwofia 1 of ANIA, the late Eze I. O. Okereke in May 1980, honoured him with the chieftaincy title of Ikeagwu of ANIA Autonomous Community and in 2002, Abia State Government conferred on him the Justice of Peace (JP).
Standing above other scions in community service, he was on July 5, 2000, elected the traditional ruler of Akanu Ukwu Autonomous Community, but formally ascended the throne on Saturday, August II, 2001.
A devout Christian of Presbyterian faith, Ezie Iroh was in December 1987, ordained ruling elder. He was a member of the Presbyterian Ruling Elders Fellowship (PREFON) and an active member of the Men Christian Association (MCA) of Presbyterian Church of Nigeria, Akanu, Ohafia Parish (Imeogo). The Association honoured him with the Father of the Year in 2009.
Eze Iroh crossed the great divide on September 13, 2020. He is survived by two wives, Elder Mercy Ada Nwosu and Mrs. Nnenna Uwere Nwosu, 15 children, 42 grandchildren and one great-grandchild.