Posted by News Express | 27 April 2015 | 3,382 times
Apparently when on Saturday, April 18, Dr. Taju Tijani, the Europe and Asia Coordinator of Global Intelligentsia for Buhari, raised the issue of Comrade Uche Chukwumerije with me, the great man Uche was already at the Departure Lounge on his way to the Continuum. It was a curious coincidence that Taju would ask after our Comrade and wondered why we have not heard of him for some time.
I responded by informing him of my long-standing association with the Comrade and how I spent a week in his village in Abia State during the activities marking the funeral rites for his mother 23 years ago!
Comrade Uche Chukwumerije’s path and mine crossed 44 years ago in 1971 when I had the privilege of marketing his magazine at the Ife University Bookshop where I worked as a Manager under Mr. Zell.
Uche Chukwumerije was the first person to publish a quality magazine in this country. His magazine titled Afriscope competed favourably with Transition, which was a Ghana-based intellectual monthly magazine. Afriscope was a high quality news magazine owned by Uche Chukwumerije. The Comrade also assigned a column to me.
For about 17 years I did not hear much from/of him. However in 1988 when I was appointed a Commissioner in the 8-member National Population Commission and was saddled with responsibility for information and communication I started looking for him to engage him as Consultant to the Commission. I reached out to him and Ogbuefi Alex Nwokedi, the two gentlemen I believed/believe were gurus in media management.
As fate would have it, four years later I served as Chairman/Managing Director of the Daily Times Conglomerate with Uche Chukwumerije as my supervising Minister!
A thorough-bred professional in media management and propaganda, Chukwumerije was a master in the use of English Language both in verbal and written communication. A highly principled and self disciplined individual, Uche was incorruptible. He was imbued with unimpeachable integrity.
Bold, bright and brilliant, Uche Chukwumerije possessed a very alert and analytical mind and his leadership qualities were beyond reproach. Uche had no time for frivolities and mundane pre-occupation. Life to him was a serious business and success, as far as he was concerned was a product of painstaking doggedness and relentlessness.
Chukwumerije did not believe in failure and the word ‘impossible’ had no place in his dictionary.
He made a success of his duties as Federal Minister of Information at a most challenging and critical period in Nigerian history. And I would like to submit that it was to Chukwumerije’s eternal glory that the election annulment of 1993 did not lead to war. It was Uche’s superb media management that saved the Yorubaland from being turned to a theatre of war.
A most misunderstood public functionary, a mock coffin of Chukwumerije was carried in a protest march during those trying days. On one or two occasions Chukwumerije offered to resign his ministerial appointment but was prevailed upon to stay on because the country needed his services.
Even as the Chairman, Senate Committee in the nation’s 7th Senate, Chukwumerije was a towering figure who commanded and enjoyed the respect of his colleagues both in the Senate Committee on Education and in the National Assembly in general. His opinion counted on most issues on the floor of the Senate. He was very passionate about Nigeria and the plight of the common man.
Not many people, especially those born less than 65 years ago, remember the outstanding heroic role the young Uche Chukwumerije, then an activist Ibadan University graduate, played during the unfortunate Civil War.
As he had always displayed either at regional level or at the national level, Chukwumerije had always been passionate about his people. He gave unalloyed support and unqualified sacrifice to his Igbo nation in Biafra and later after the war, he gave the same commitment to the Nigerian nation with passion and zeal.
Human beings, especially the deprived and down-trodden, were always at the centre of his activities. Loving, kind, considerate and gentle, Chukwumerije’s steely strength was always deployed in the service of the people.
A Comrade in the true sense of the word, Uche lived a very modest life devoid of pomposity, arrogance or misplaced exaggeration of self importance.
The Senate, Nigeria, Africa and the whole of humanity would miss this great soul.
We must commend our Uche that in the 75 years he spent on the surface of the earth, there was not a single scandal associated with his name. He remained a true ambassador of his family and his native people.
May Comrade Uche Chukwumerije’s enterprising spirit live on in the Continuum, and may all of us left behind to mourn his demise find comfort in the Lord.
•Chief Tola Adeniyi (shown in photo) is a former Managing Director of Daily Times of Nigeria. He can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org
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