Tributes poured in honour of late author and pioneer General Manager of the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), Chief Onuora Nzekwu, who will be buried on June 30 in his home town, Onitsha, Anambra State.
The Media Centre at Iganmu office of NAN on Friday hosted former and current members of staff of NAN as well as friends of Nzekwu where tributes were shared.
The current Managing Director of the Agency, Mr Bayo Onanuga, was full of emotion as he spoke glowingly of the “titan”. Here is a full text of his tributes:
Tribute in Honour of Pa Joseph Onuora Nzekwu by Bayo Onanuga, managing director, News Agency of Nigeria
On July 8, 2016, less than 3 months after I assumed duty as managing director of this agency, I had the privilege to speak at an evening of tributes for Dr. Nwagbu Mgbemena, the second Managing Director of the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN).
The tribute was entitled: `The Glorification of a Colossus’’.
I have found it difficult to couch an appropriate description of the man we have gathered here to praise and celebrate, Pa Joseph Onuorah Nzekwu, who was born on 19 February 1928.
He was the pioneer leader of our agency, the foundation builder of what is today the biggest news agency in Africa. He was a wordsmith, a novelist of great repute. He was, in my estimation certainly bigger than the other colossus.
If wishes were horses, I would have woken him up to help me out. But since that is not possible, I have settled for another word to describe this great man: a titan. He was a titan.
I welcome you therefore to the Glorification of a Titan.: Pa Joseph Onuora Nzekwu (OON) who passed away in May 2017.
Though I did not meet Pa Nzekwu physically all through his 8 decades plus on earth, I first encountered him 46 years ago via his famous book, Eze Goes to School.
I was in Secondary Class Two then and I must say I enjoyed reading the book. As teenagers, we saw a part of us in the episodes involving Eze, his friends Joseph, Ibuka and we also saw a part of our oppressive seniors in Adindu or Ikenna.
By the way, this book has been updated and is now on the internet.
Though I never met Pa Nzekwu since he left NAN on 1st of July 1985 after seven years of meritorious service, I met his good legacy.
Many of the staff that have spoken about him did so in glowing terms. “He was a nice man. A man of few words, a good listener” are some of the testimonies that I have heard.
“When he was here, he gave everyone his due. He was fair to everyone”, others said.
And someone attesting to his financial integrity told me that Papa was in the habit of returning to the Federal treasury unspent allocation.
It is indeed a big credit to him that no one had spoken ill of him. People had rather spoken fondly of this titan.
May God Bless His Soul.
In the literary world, Pa Nzekwu displayed his mastery of the English language. I have told you about his earlier work,“Eze Goes to School’’ which he co-authored with Michael Crowther.
Along with Crowther, he also wrote “Eze Goes to College’’ much later, in 1988, 24 years after the first Eze.
As a writer, Pa Nzekwu was very prolific. In 1977, he published his first non-fiction work entitled, “The Chima Dynasty in Onitsha’’.
His book, “Faith of Our Fathers’’, a compendium of the arts, beliefs, social institutions and code of values that characterize the Onitsha traditional community was published in 2003.
To his credit also are “Wand of Noble Wood’’ (1961); “Blade Among the Boys’’ (1962); “Highlife for Lizards’’ (1965); “Troubled Dust’’ (2012); and “Ahmad Daggash’’.
Pa Nzekwu crowned all his earthly achievements in 2008, when he was conferred with the Nigerian National Honor of the Officer of the Order of the Niger (OON) in 2008.
This came two years after our agency had honoured him at the 30th anniversary with the title, Maker of NAN.
On behalf of the management and staff of NAN, I congratulate the family and his friends for being the survivors of a truly great man, a man of letters and a titan.
Now, Eze is getting set to go home finally.
I thank you all for coming and wish you safe trip to Onitsha next week for the final celebration of Pa Joseph Onuorah Nzekwu. May His soul Rest In Peace.
Also in his tribute, the former General manager of Imo Newspaper Corporation, publishers of The Statesman, Mr Ken Njoku has said that late Onuora Nzekwu wrote his book with utmost inspiration.
He said the media and Nigeria lost a rare gem who made a big contribution in the media world both in Nigeria and outside.
“The people who wrote books during his time wrote with inspiration; they tell you what to think about, and what to do. I advise upcoming authors to emulate them, let them be inspired before they go into writing,” Njoku said.
Prof. Mike Ordu, Traditional Ruler of Amaohuru Autonomous Community described the death of Nzekwu, first General Manager of News Agency of Nigeria(NAN) as a call to glory.
Ordu, the Isiozo 1 of Amaohuru Nguru Autonomous Community in Aboh Mbaise Local Government Area, Imo, an Author of “Tears of the Father” and other literary works said late Nzekwu was a literary Icon and a leader per excellence.
Ordu, also a member of the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA) in Imo noted that the best leaders are authors because they have ideas to impact.
“Nobody who has not written any book should lead anywhere in the world, because he has no idea to impact. Onuora has written a book and is qualified to lead a nation. He was a good man,” Prof. Ordu said.
He urged the family to bear his death with fortitude.
Speaking, the Chairman of the Nigeria Union of journalists (NUJ), Imo Council Mr Innocent Igwe said Nzekwu’s demise was a total loss to the media world and Nigeria in general .
He said his book “Eze Goes to School” was a land mark which introduced moral upbringing to the youths and the need for them to be serious minded in their endeavours.
“ Nzekwu was a good writer. His death is a total loss in terms of experience. A loss in terms of moral and cultural indoctrination of the youths into the academic world and I wish the family the fortitude to bear the loss,” Igwe said.
The Chairman, Correspondents’ Chapel, Imo, Mr Athan Agbakwuru described late Nzekwu as a prolific and seasoned author.
He said he was one of the lead authors who introducing the young minds to the academic world and the importance of education.
Agbakwuru said Nzekwu deserves a national award because virtually all the people in Nigeria that went to school during his time and beyond read his book, Eze Goes to School.
An Enugu based group, Coal City Literary Foundation (CCLF) has urged secondary and tertiary schools across the country to use books written by the late literary icon.
The President of the foundation, Dr Adaobi Nwoye made the call in Enugu while reacting to the death of Nzekwu in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN).
Nwoye said that this should be part of efforts to immortalize the writer of `Eze Goes to School’ and other books.
The president regretted that books written by veteran writers like Nzekwu, Anezionwu Okoro of the `Village School’ and Chukwuemeka Ike’s `Potters’ Wheel’ Chinua Achebe’s `Things Fall Apart’ were no longer used in schools.
“Such literary works depict Nigerian and African culture and traditions and will give children of today a sense of belonging and identity.
“Many of these veteran writers like Prof Anezi Okoro are not given national awards in spite of their immense contributions toward the development of education in the country,’’ she said.
Nwoye, who is also a writer, described Nzekwu’s literary works as `thought provoking’ and laden with moral instruction for children of today.
On World Book Day commemorated every April 22, the president said that such a day should be dedicated to support dedicated writers.
“It is important that on a day like this emphasis should be made on the need to support dedicated writers who have expended time, resources and energy in the production of books by way of protecting their copyrights.
“Piracy is undermining the creativity sector and the earlier this menace is checked the better for us all,’’ she said.
Nwoye stressed the need for regulatory agencies to enforce the strict compliance of writers to qualitative literature before issuing out isbn numbers.
“There is currently a glut of substandard books in the market today which is inimical to the intellectual development particularly of young readers,’’ she said.
Nzekwu’s widow, Justina, had told NAN on telephone that the deceased, a traditional title holder, would be laid to rest after traditional ceremonies.
Nzekwu, aged 89, died at 4.30p.m. on April 21 in Onitsha, where he had been living in retirement.
She said that a service of songs would be held in Nzekwu’s honour on June 23 at NAN, Media Centre, Iganmu, Lagos.
The late general manager was born in Kafanchan, Kaduna State, in 1928, she said.
He trained and practised as a teacher for several years before establishing his reputation as a novelist in the 1960s.
Nzekwu worked with the Federal Ministry of Information for several years before becoming the pioneer General Manager of NAN on July 1, 1979.