Special to USAfrica magazine (Houston) and USAfricaonline.com, first Africa-owned, US-based newspaper published on the Internet
On 15th October, 2021, Rear Admiral Ndubuisi Kanu, rtd., set sail for his last voyage as he sailed home to take his place among the pantheon of Ndị Ichie Ndigbo, the Igbo faithful departed, Igbo greats who stood in the gap for their beloved and benighted people.
Admiral Kanu departed this world on 13th January, 2021. However, in line with Igbo cosmology, his valiant spirit went home the day he was laid to rest.
Learning of his death, I wept for more than ten minutes. The relationship we shared was like a Father and Son. Surprisingly, it had been long I last shed tears on hearing of someone’s death. In fact, when my father, Chief M. M. Oji (Osuofia 1 of Nenwe) died in 2010, I had no tears to shed as I was at his bedside while he traversed the divide to meet his ancestors.
With Admiral’s death, “COVID is real” became real to me. He was the only person I had a personal relationship with who had died of the pandemic. He was such a father that, at my father’s funeral in Nenwe, he was represented by his Personal Assistant, Mazi Ndubuisi Ofondu. I still recall his text message to me, on learning of my father’s demise, “Bismarck, bear up, it is the way of all flesh”
Indeed, I wept for Ndigbo because it was the “wrongest” time for Admiral Kanu to die. This is because he would have made a huge difference in the resolution of the ongoing leadership crisis in Ohanaeze Ndigbo, the Igbo apex socio-cultural organization with its concomitant effect on the political leadership of Ala-Igbo as well as the resolution of the present insecurity bedevilling our land.
Admiral Kanu was a game changer. Ótù onye a na-asị unu abịala. His role in the resolution of the Ohanaeze Ndigbo crisis of 2005-2006 regarding the extension of the tenure of the outgoing President General – Prof Jo Irukwu was outstanding. When the intervention of the clergy did not yield fruits, after several reconciliatory meetings at the Divine Love Retreat and Conference Center (DRACC), Emene, Enugu, Admiral Kanu chaired the Ohanaeze Transition Committee (OTC) which helped to stabilize Ohanaeze and midwife the election of Dr. Dozie Ikedife as Ohanaeze President General in January, 2006. Other members of the OTC included Chief Mike Ahamba (SAN) (Secretary), Chief Nduka Eya ( who hosted the meetings at his Enugu residence), Prof Elo Amucheazi, Prof Uche Azikiwe, Engr Chris Okoye, Barr Oyibo Chukwu and Mazi Ikechukwu Bismarck Oji, MNSE.
Then, in 2004, there was intense pressure on the President General to adopt President Obasanjo’s Third Term agenda, on behalf of Ohanaeze Ndigbo and to go for a second term of two years, contrary to the Ohanaeze constitution which then stipulated a two year single tenure.
Also, in 2008, after the Awka election that produced Ambassador Raph Uwechue as President General, there was a crisis regarding the Office of the Secretary General. At the Women Development Center, Awka venue of the election, Admiral’s diplomatic parley with Sir O. A. U., leader of the Enugu State Government’s delegation helped to diffuse an otherwise explosive situation. Eventually, when Chief Nduka Eya was declared the Secretary General, his opponent – Prince Richard Ozobu, with the tacit support of the Enugu State Government locked up the Ohanaeze Secretariat at No 7 Park Avenue, GRA, Enugu. Again, it took the intervention of Admiral Kanu, whose diplomatic skills made Governor Sullivan Chime to prevail on the other party to let go, after almost a year’s impasse.
He was a man of many contrasts. He was very firm and yet very friendly. Despite being a soldier, he was democratic and very accommodating. I Iearnt that much during his days as Chairman, Ohanaeze Transition Committee. He would seek everyone’s input before taking a stand. Once convinced, he was stubborn and resolute in pursuing his convictions. Yet, he was ready to listen if someone came up with something new.
Despite his soldierly strictness, he often cracked jokes and made fun of prevailing tough situations. Again, he was deeply religious without being “churcheous”.
In a lighter mood, Nnam Ukwu Admiral, when I met him first, he enjoyed his pipe and his small stout. Years afterwards, he dropped his pipe on medical grounds but held unto his occasional small stout, to the end.
Admiral was a large hearted man whose benevolence and philanthropy was legendary despite the fact that he was not among those that used their office to amass stupendous wealth. How could he have been a military Governor of Lagos State without accumulating landed properties everywhere, like the present crop of Governors do? Naturally, he had little or no attachment to wealth and the trappings of office. Yet, he was very sophisticated and a man of high tastes.
He never discriminated based on people’s states of origin or tribe. As such, even though he was from Abia State, his benevolence cut across every Igbo state and even included non Igbos. I benefitted from such benevolence in 2009 when I met him after my resignation from PHCN, Enugu. He gave me a blank cheque by asking me to make a proposal to Fidelity Bank where he was a Director, for whatever business I intended embarking on, with him using his position to guarantee the loan. Eventually, when the business went awry, he offset the loan on my behalf. Several other persons benefitted likewise including Mazi Okwuchukwu Okwu, from Ukpor, Anambra State, who he assisted financially on different occasions. I learnt of it because he would usually call me to ascertain if I knew about Mazi Okwu’s sickness and how sick he was.
The extent of our relationship was such that at a point, I became part of his protocol team as he would inform me to be part of his entourage whenever he had any function to attend in the East.
One unforgettable occasion was on 27th December, 2009, when his statue was to be unveiled at Ovim, the Isuikwuato Local Government headquarters. The occasion was scheduled for eleven O’clock but his flight was delayed for two hours. As such, we arrived around two O’clock.
Surprisingly, the then Abia State Governor, Chief T. A. Orji stayed put at the venue and waited for over two hours. During the reading of his citation, something happened. The citation, as contained in the brochure contained details of his private life. Surprisingly, he stood unruffled as the Master of Ceremony read the whole thing. That was Nnam Ukwu Ndubuisi Kanu for you.
Nnam Ukwu, having taken your seat among ranks of Ndị Ichie Ndigbo, waste no time in disturbing and rousing those you meet there. Urge them to no longer Sit at Home while the She Goat gives birth with the tethering rope around her neck.
In fact, pound on Ikemba’s door until he thunders, so that those having the rein of leadership in Ala – Igbo today may be moved by his rage and the hypnotic magnetism of his eyes to do the Needful.
Engage Eze Ozobu, Dozie Ikedife and Joe Achuzia in a conclave, that they may realize that IPOB, the body they founded now speaks in dismembered voices with Gunmen of Unknown identity, taking advantage of the situation to desecrate Ala-Igbo with blood, terror and tears.
Tell Ikeogu Arthur Nwankwo and Ben Obumselu, our intellectual oracles that “aliens have invaded the Igbo space”, confirming their worst fears. Also, urge Eze Desmond Ogugua, the stoic Mbaise monarch to join the fray in his usual righteous anger.
Buoyed by my Catholic belief in the Communion of Saints, I pray that you, in union with your “fellow saints in the Igbo service”, may lay your hands on our Igbo Governors, inspire them, for once, to act as statesmen, not politicians.
Nevertheless, Nnam Ukwu, accord your face a smile. Be assured that Admiral’s boys shall keep sailing on the raft of Igbo ethos that you crafted into our subconscious. No matter how stormy the seas may be, our eyes are fixed on one goal – Ọdịmma Igbo.
Mazi Oji, MNSE, is a stakeholder in the Ohanaeze Ndigbo since 2000. He is the Publisher of the online newspapers hoohaa.com.ng and english.hoohaa.com.ng.