Tribute To Comrade Uche Chukwumerije
COMRADE Uche Chukwumerije is a great man. And he remains so even in death. Only a few men born of a woman attain, and truly earn this epithet commonly used to describe most Nigerians especially at death. And the true worth of a man is in truth actually determined at death when he is powerless and helpless.
For even if he has relations and friends surviving him they can only do little or nothing to defend him as he would have done by, and for himself if he were alive.
So, the worth of a great man is measured in the little things he did while alive that added extraordinary value to the culture and civilisation he was both a producer and a consumer. And when it is said that no man should call himself happy until death the chronicles of lives of great men lend credence to this pithy saying.
Uncle Chukwumerije is truly a happy man! I did not know this great man except by reputation, especially during the Abacha regime in which he played an active role as its Information Minister.
His zeal and the pungency of his defence of the regime whose sins of usurpations, that is; overthrowing the Interim National Government (ING) and the refusal to revalidate Abiola’s mandate so incensed the civil society and pitched him against the Lagos/Ibadan (Axis) press, the most potent and powerful information media tradition that had its origin right through colonial period to the present day.
Of course, NADECO and other opposition platforms against Abacha enjoyed its sympathy. General Abacha had overthrown the ING headed by Chief Ernest Shonekan, a weird political contraption designed by General Ibrahim Babangida while retreating from state power that he had been forced to abdicate.
It was a herculean task given the socio-political tendencies that were up in arms against the Abacha regime from within and outside Nigeria. But the comrade believed in the mission of the regime and did his duty by the state.
However, my personal encounter with the comrade was in 2012 after the publication of my books; “The Dilemma of Operating Nigerian Local Government System Under 1999 Constitution” and a collection of essays entitled, “Musings of a Politician” (Essays in Intervention in Public Discourse) which I had sent complimentary copies with covering letters to several public officers including politicians and other critical opinion leaders in Nigeria.
I had sent the books to former President Goodluck Jonathan, principal presidency officials and the Senate President and Speaker of the House of Representatives.
The books were also sent to Governor Babatunde Fashola and Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu because of their nasty experience during the confrontation with President Obasanjo over the local government palaver. Of course the books were sent to all the National Assembly members from the Southeast zone.
Two persons (Senator Ike Ekweremadu through his personal assistant and Uche Chukwumerije) out of the tens of public officers acknowledged receipt of the books and the accompanying letter.
But that of Chukwumerije was different. The Comrade wrote a letter personally signed by him and also enclosed a N20,000.00 bank cheque in acknowledgement and appreciation of the gift. And note that the books were sent as complimentary copies.
There was no notice or invitation to the launch or public presentation of the books yet the Comrade sent in the letter and a cheque of N20,000.00.
You need to read the letter in which the Comrade poured encomiums on my little efforts in doing the works, especially the book on the local government system which was actually my Masters dissertation (after my tour de force in government as political and legislative adviser to Ebonyi State Governor) concluding my postgraduate inquiry on the system that gave most states niggling worries during General Obasanjo presidency.
On the books of essays, the Comrade almost commented on all the essays, especially chapter two (Legislative Agenda for Mr. President), chapter three (Igbo Question and its Resolution), chapter four (Re: Zoning, Power-shift and other Abracadabra), chapter six (Memorandum on Electoral Reform to the (Uwais) Electoral Reform Committee), chapter 21 (Re-making Nigeria), chapter 41 (Restructure Nigeria for a Better Society).
In his appreciation of the books, the Comrade criticised and appreciated the strengths and weaknesses of the reasoning, conclusions and literary aesthetics or get-up of the books.
On the whole, he was happy that young men are picking up, according to him, from where his generation stopped. His intervention in this manner was a morale booster to me and that rare act of a Nigerian ‘big man’ descending to do the little but extraordinary thing has changed my own view of what true greatness is.
Some may be taken in by the hustling that elevate some otherwise mediocrities unto the portals of high offices and the prancing about of these little men in the political economy of whom K. O. Mbadiwe ironically described as men of ‘timber’ and ‘calibre’, ‘institution’ and ‘juggernaut’ of power in Nigeria.
But it is the quiet but consistent efforts of ordinary Nigerians represented by Comrade Uche Chukwumerije that make the difference between success and failure in life.
For it has to be noted that what recreates society and moves it forward is the determined effort of some good men to transcend and outgrow mundane selfish inclinations and aspire to make rational interventions and sacrifices in the public and private arenas which according to Ralph Waldo Emerson, “redeems the social conditions” of any nation.
It is this public spirit that regenerates hope which assures the society that one does not have to live for himself alone and that every person has to contribute (in idea or action) in redeeming, at least one otherwise deplorable social condition.
To Emerson, this is the measure of success in life. And I agree with him. Chukwumerije has faithfully and beautifully paid his dues to man and posterity. Given his unpretentious Spartan private life and his public life executed variously in Biafra, Igbo land and the very distinguished activities as a Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, he has succeeded in his earthly sojourn and as he ascends to eternity I wish him joyful activity in paradise.