“One of the signs of passing youth is the birth of a sense of fellowship with other human beings as we take our place among them” -Virginia Woolf
I don’t do birthday tributes, any sort of tributes for that matter. Primarily because I wouldn’t what to say or write that won’t sound outlandish. Be that as it may, there are hugely significant and remarkable milestone events when it becomes imperative that one has to side-step his dread or indifference to whatever stimulus, grab the bull by the horns, and unabashedly say the things that ought to be said. Enyioha Ugochukwu Ifeadigo Okeke’s 50th birthday anniversary belongs in the top drawer of that category of milestone occasions.
50 years of life on earth is a whole lot of life, and it is also ample time to establish the character of any individual, and largely know who they are and the stuff they are made of. Ugochukwu Okeke’s cannot be any different. On this day 30th May, 50 years ago, Ugochukwu Ifeadigo Okeke was born. Except for the legitimate hopes of elated parents, no one in their wildest imagination would have predicted or known that the infant child they were beholden would turn out to be a man of impactful Destiny, positive energy, and excellent fellowship with other humans, as he traverses the ups and downs, the nooks and crannies of his earthly existence.
Everybody of course has birthdays and milestones and all sorts of anniversaries to celebrate. But not everybody is Ugochukwu Okeke. Everybody knows Ugochukwu Okeke. So there’s nothing I will say here that hasn’t been said or heard before. When I say everybody, I am obviously saying within the National context. That clarified, he still rakes up the figures and ratings in the diaspora context, because anytime he has been privileged to travel overseas to Europe or the United States, his presence draws a large and diverse section of Nigerian nationals in those places like ants are drawn to sugar. In fact, there have been cases where blood relations and friends who haven’t seen themselves in years, despite living in same Cities and States, have run into themselves on account of Ugochukwu being around.
Possessing a natural inclination of being the focal point of gatherings of individuals, it is a common occurrence to find 2-3 persons knowing him in a congregation of 5. And this popularity is not as a result of Ugochukwu being the biggest or loudest of anyone around, but fundamentally because of his loyalty and devotion to friendship, and a deep sense of respect and tolerance for acquaintances. Most people who know Ugochukwu Okeke, or have come in contact with him, being objective, would tell you of his engaging personality, friendless, compassion, magnanimity, intelligence, and overall tolerant disposition.
Although his given names are Ugochukwu Ifeadigo Okeke, he is a man of several aliases. A large section of his childhood friends and peer group call him Taiwo, not because he is the other half of Youruba twin siblings, but because he will more often than not make sure there was to munch on and alleviate the persistent hunger and stomach needs of the teenage growing up years. There are others that call him Owude, derived from Owu dey (things are tough), an expression he was in the habit of using during the early adulthood days, a symbolic analytical statement on the state of affairs in the country. To some, he is “His Excellency””. Not on account of him possessing any State Executive powers, but deservedly because he courageously, and against all odds, contested in the Peoples Democratic Party’s gubernatorial primaries, leading to the elections that produced the sitting Governor of Anambra State, Willie Obiano, in 2011. These days, it is quite common to hear him addressed as Enyioha, translated means “Everybody’s friend”, or “Friend of the Masses”, which is a traditional Chieftaincy title given to him and which aptly describes the holder because he is practically everybody’s buddy, a man of the people, a man for his people.
If you get impatient with, and frustrated at running into unscheduled meetings of friends and acquaintances, and the ensuing back patting and endless greetings, then Enyioha Ugochukwu Okeke is definitely not the man to hang out with, because there are certainly bound to inexhaustible cases of such encounters, and folks don’t let him proceed in a hurry when they get hold of him. He revels in these situations.
What positions Enyioha Ugochukwu Okeke in good stead, and stands him out amongst his peers and contemporaries are his unassuming humility and dignity. Despite the considerable success he has attained in the socio-political and business spheres of life, he never discriminates along tribe, class, or creed. From his teenage years to his current adulthood, his existence has been that of unconditional service to all humanity he has come in direct or indirect contact with, coupled with wholehearted assistance to the less privileged. The essential virtues of life, embedded in his character, have consistently earned him unadulterated goodwill and conviviality from friends and associates alike, and respect, admiration, and sometimes envy from foes as well.
It is not uncommon to accompany Enyioha to an event or celebration he has been invited to, which invitations are routine and endless, and see him making determined efforts to get item 7 materials to his staff (which may include drivers and security detail) who have also gone along with him, and I am seated right there beside him at an elevated position, and haven’t had as little as a bottle of water. And I’m like, is this guy for real? I’m sat 1 foot away and just been swallowing air, and he’s hustling to get refreshments to “ordinary helps and hands” seated a 100 feet away. A likely comment on the situation would elicit a typical Enyioha response. He would be like, ” Macho, (or whatever alias he has for any one of his numerous friends accompanying him at that time. He usually has an alias for everyone) you know there’s no way you’re going to be overlooked where you are positioned. But if I don’t look out for those people seated at the “less important section”, they will be neglected, ignored, and then deprived”. For him, this is a state of mind the man applies in all his dealings and relations with all peoples. It is not restricted to occasions and events. He is constantly worried about the well-being and welfare of the less privileged.
And still on occasions and events, Enyioha Ugochukwu Okeke’s support and attendance of people’s celebrations and special occasions is legendary. The invitations come in droves and he honours them with zeal. I call him “Ajala travel” in regards to these movements. It is basically for this reason that his own events are amongst the most attended. If it wasn’t for the ravaging pandemic, and he had decided to celebrate his 50th, there would have been noticeably heavy traffic of persons at the airports and motor parks of major cities up and down the country, headed towards any location he would have chosen to host in. Anyone who has ever gone for any of his events can attest to this. A case in point was the celebration of his twin daughters 1st birthday anniversary years back.
The Holy Book taught us about he without blemish casting the first stone. I have seen anyone pick up even a pebble as yet. This philosophy applies to every living mortal. But for a man with impeccable class and style, Enyioha Ugochukwu Okeke retains a lot less worldly indulgences than most. When you encounter Enyioha, he won’t discuss tobacco and intoxicant because he doesn’t smoke. He won’t discuss alcohol because he is an occasional drinker, and sparingly that he could pass for a non-drinker. Except for the periodic and intermittent references to his Mother and Wife, he doesn’t discuss women because he is not a philanderer. Any discussion he would have will most likely be centred on respite for the needy, simplification of processes allowing for better standard of life for a people, essence of sustainable infrastructure, good governance and accountability in public life. These are his passion.
Enyioha is fiercely proud of, and protective of his Igbo heritage. He has an unquenchable love and devotion for his State, Anambra and her people. He is quick to give you an analysis of the enormous material and economic wherewithal of the Anambra person per sq kilometre in comparison to his contemporary from other states of the federation, and how if properly harnessed and purposely directed, would place Anambra State heads and shoulders above other states in terms of development.
Enyioha’s vision and mission is an Anambra State that would extricate herself from the glaring under-development stifling the potentials of our nation, and draw up a home-grown strategy which implementation will lead to speedy development in all areas of life for the Anambrarian, in accordance with world’s best practices and internationally accepted standards. Enyioha Ugochukwu Okeke doesn’t understand why with the expansive means and exposure of the average Anambra person, he would build a palatial house in his homeland, without making efforts and piling pressure on those in authority to make available the deserving public utilities that will ensure his enjoyment of this home complete.
It’s therefore noteworthy and symbolic the Enyioha’s birthday, 30th May, falls on the commemorative day of Saint Joan of Arc, the peasant girl who saved France from the punishing and humiliating defeat and occupation by The Anglo-Burgundian Army. Like Saint Joan, Enyioha Ugochukwu Okeke may just be the tool to free his people from the pervasive clutches, and vicious cycle of insensitivity and mal-administration prevalent right now.
50 Hearty Cheers to you Enyioha on your milestone. And 50 Canon shots as well. I have no doubt in my mind that you are The Man for your people.
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