By Peter Okolie/Onitsha
The remains of Chief Onuora Nzekwu, the Pioneer General Manager, News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), was on Friday interred in his home town of Onitsha, Anambra, in eastern Nigeria.
Born on Feb. 19, 1928, Nzekwu, author of “Eze Goes to School,” was interred at Omozele in Umuroli village, Onitsha, at about 6 p.m.
In his tribute, Gov. Willie Obiano of Anambra said Nzekwu was remarkable for his unequivocal endorsement of the universal principle of hard work and tenacity for the actualization of great goals and ambitions.
“An illustrious son of Onitsha, Onuora, was among a generation of writers who projected the African identity and studiousness and its relation to an alien civilization.
“He was a writer with an insight that affirms the eternal truth of his convictions; he was one of the unassuming but great talents that moulded many lives on the studious path to self-actualization,” Obiano said.
The Managing Director of NAN, Mr Bayo Onanuga described Nzekwu as a “national hero, who bestrode NAN firmament like the colossus that he was”.
Onanuga, represented by Mrs Kate Popoola, the Head of NAN Lagos Office, said Nzekwu charted the course of the agency’s future glory to build Africa’s biggest news agency.
“The NAN he nurtured, is still standing till date and the Federation of Nigeria had rightly honoured him with the Order of the Niger (OON) prestigious merit award.
“While he was the General Manager, staff in Lagos, which was the headquarters then, would not receive their salaries until everybody in the outstation had been paid their salaries and entitlements.
“He was a very fair and honest person, who paid back into the Federal Government’s treasury, the money remaining from the allocation to NAN for each year,” she said.
In his tribute, Mr Denja Abdullahi, National President, Association of Nigeria Authors (ANA), said Nzekwu would be remembered for his contribution to the genre of children’s literature.
“He will also be remembered for his contribution to the continued unity of this country through his exemplary literary life and sustained service to his community,” Abudullahi said.
On his part, Mr David Igiewe, a former Editor-in-Chief of NAN, said: “as the pioneer General Manger of NAN till his retirement, he acted as a father to all staff.”
“I came from Benin to pay my last respects because he was a reflection of a true administrator and patriot Nigeria ever had.”
Also speaking, Mr Louis Chuke, an indigene of Onitsha and former NAN Bureau Chief, New Delhi and North West Europe, described Nzekwu as a true detribalised Nigerian.
“Nzekwu was a linguist, seasoned administrator and good traditionalist.
“His favourite quote ‘all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy’ led to him set up a soccer club for NAN, a cooperative society among others, that kept staff members socially active.
“He was a man, who emphasised the unity of the country; was honest and had love for every Nigerian irrespective of your tribe,” Chuke added.
For Mr George Izobo, a two-time President, Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Nzekwu was a “meticulous man, who domesticated every staff of NAN.
“We came to pay our last homage to a complete detribalized Nigerian with humane character. Thank God he lived long and with high reputation; that is the joy we have.
“His body was laid there lifeless but it is full of life,” Izobo said.
Similarly, Mr Mike Osunde, a former Ibadan-based Zonal Manager of NAN, said: “we came because of how we held him dearly as the first General Manager of NAN.”
According to him, Nzekwu, while touching many lives, built a News Agency of Nigeria and not News Agency of any tribe.
In his remark, Nzekwu’s son, Olisa, described his late father as a “quiet man, lover of culture and tradition, who cared about his family”.
Nzekwu’s wife, Justina, said her late husband inspired both the haves and the have nots on the importance of education as exemplified in his literary works.
According to her, he was a father to all and sundry, who came close to him.
“He will be remembered for his patience, endurance, love and patriotism to his fatherland and to his immediate family,” she said.
NAN reports that late Nzekwu, a member of the Agbalanze Society of Onitsha, held the traditional title of ‘Odinigwe’ (united we stand) and was buried according to the Onitsha traditional burial rites.
Various age, youth and women groups accompanied by masquerades, paid their last respects to the literary icon who also ‘Wand of Noble Wood’, ‘Blade Among the Boys’, ‘Highlife for Lizards’, ‘The Chima Dynasty’, ‘Faith of Our Fathers’ and ‘Troubled Dust.’