Umukabia Umuagbom is a sleepy community in Abia State. To be precise, it is one of the constituent villages of the great Ohuhu clan where late Dr. Michael Iheonukara Okpara, Premier of the defunct Eastern Region hailed from. It has a distinctive topography that could make regular tourists do repeat ‘business’ there. It therefore must have been sleepier and tranquil – in an absolute sense – when it blessed humanity with a special gift unwrapped in the homestead of late Pa Francis Udegbu Ogbuagu on May 25th, 1925.
That gift was to later grow up to join the army of young intellectuals and activists that eventually brought colonialism to its knees on October 1, 1960. Over time, he had received adequate tutelage at the feet of the duo of late Zik of Africa and Dr. Okpara as a core Zikist. By the way, the Zikist Movement was for all practical purposes the radical wing of the ‘Self-Determination Army’ which was defiantly committed to Nigeria’s independence. Earlier, he had done commendably, in the struggle for independence, from the journalism flank with Jos-based Northern Advocate as a newspaper proprietor who doubled as editor.
When the nation searched frantically for vibrant and visionary young men who could, in the prevalent circumstance, take the bull by the horns – as it were, he was one of those who enthusiastically shouted from the rooftop: ‘here am I. Send me’. With total commitment and unrivaled passion he and his peers in the Zikist Movement like the MCK Ajuluchukwus, the Kola Baloguns of this world were to later suffer incarceration in the hands of our colonial masters for sundry charges that of course bordered on their insistence on immediate freedom for fatherland. At the professional level, he has the singular honour of admirably combining his sterling accomplishments in journalism and his legendary legacies in public relations. He alongside Prince Henry Odukomaya and Dr. Ihechukwu Madubuike saw the Champion newspapers idea moved from the laboratory to the news stand. He bowed out after a meritorious career in the ink business as Managing Director/Editor-in-Chief of the paper. On the other hand, he is better known, for good measure, within the public relations circuit as ‘Doyen of Nigerian Public Relations Practice’.
Without meaning to sound patronizing, he extended the frontiers of that noble profession like none before him as President, Nigerian Institute of Public Relations (NIPR). Equally, when he was invited to ascend the presidential seat of Federation of African Public Relations Associations (FAPRA), he did not fail to etch his name in gold. As a Christian of the Methodist family, he is no less accomplished. Having come from a very humble background with a teacher and lay preacher as father, it was little wonder he devoted all his life to the preservation of his family’s heritage of Godliness and integrity. He did not merely preserve it, but actually took it a notch higher, as he has unwaveringly held Methodism sacred. At some point, he was deemed ripe for elevation to the position of Archdiocesan Lay President of Enugu. He was to be later honoured with the Knight of John Wesley (KJW) medal. Subsequently, he was decorated as pioneer Archdiocesan Lay President of Umuahia – a position he occupies till date.
But beyond the endless list of accolades is the infectious humility of Jesus Christ he radiates. He is a mere mortal with all the foibles of man present in him – without disputation, but he also is unarguably a rare embodiment of Godly love, compassion and kindness. On the service to humanity front, he has so meritoriously served his community, state, country, continent and the world that he is listed in Who’s Who in Nigeria, Who’s Who in Africa, Who’s Who in the Commonwealth and Who’s Who in the World. He is a Five-Star Paul Harris Fellow, Past District Governor of Rotary Club of Nigeria, District 911 and a Benefactor of Rotary Foundation. Rotarians the world over would readily attest to the fact that he is one man who could pass for a decent portrait of their Four-Wheel-Test.
As an elderstatesman, he currently serves as Deputy Chairman, Abia State Advisory Council, Member, Ime-Obi Ohanaeze Ndigbo and co-founded The Patriots with the Late FRA Williams, Professor Ben Nwabueze, Chief MT Mbu and others at a time the nation needed their intervention for national survival and healing. Just a few of his numerous community engagements and voluntary national assignments! The occasion of his 90th birthday presents to me an opportunity to reflect deeply on my special relationship with him. For, here is a man who sent me to school. He made sure it wasn’t just any school around. He sent me to a model school – Government College Owerri.
When it was time to go further, he sent me to University of Lagos to study law. When I was done with my degree programme, he did not hesitate to march me to law school. He did not rest until I was duly called to bar in record time. And in appreciation I had gone to study public relations with a promise that for as long as I live his legacies in that noble profession would not vanish. So help me God! As he turns ‘90’, I rejoice with him for so many reasons. I am in a festive mood because it pleased God to keep him alive for all of us whose worlds he has so ‘wastefully’ illuminated. I am eternally grateful to God for keeping his health in a fit and flourishing shape. He is easily the single greatest influence upon my life – and he has done 3 scores and 10; plus 10 and plus 10 again! The man whose inferior clone I am proud to be!! Onu Na Ekwuru Oha I of Nkwoegu autonomous community, Motoye of Ijanikin, Officer Order of the Niger (OON). And lots more. Ninety happy cheers to my ‘father’, benefactor, standard, mentor, role model, a true Nigerian patriot and illustrious son of Africa, Sir Chief (Dr.) Bob Ewulonu Beremako Ogbuagu!