Ojo Maduekwe bids the world goodbye

IT is painful, very painful that our dear friend Ojo Maduekwe (the only OJO SOUTH OF THE NIGER) has finally bowed out of the world orbit. Ojo is a name peculiar to the Yorubas. It is therefore a major news when an Igbo from one of the South-Eastern States is named and called Ojo.

Ojo Maduekwe was a pleasant man throughout his stay on earth. Ojo was from Ohafia very near Abriba. Ohafia  and Abriba are two Igbo towns that are regarded as the Lagos of Igbo heartland. Ojo was from Asaga town in Ohafia. Ojo Maduekwe was born well and was a great Ambassador of his people anywhere he found himself in his sojourn on earth.

Ojo’s death was conveyed to me by one of our journalist friends in Abuja. Segun Olatunji was brief in his message to me “Ambassador Ojo Maduekwe is dead”.

While shouting my disbelief on the news, I however knew inside me that ‘Segun Olatunji, the Tribune Bureau Chief in Abuja was not a Nigerian Journalist to be associated with dissemination of false and alarmist stories. I went ahead to call on Senator Anosike for confirmation of the Ojo Maduekwe’s story. Senator Anosike is quite close to Ojo Maduekwe. Anosike confirmed it to me. He added some details that vividly told me that our Ojo Maduekwe was really dead. How I had wished that the story on Ojo’s death was indeed false. It was true and Ojo Maduekwe has gone to the world beyond forever.

Myself and Ojo are children of two former Christian Priests. While Ojo’s father was an Anglican Priest, my father was of the Methodist Church of Nigeria. Ojo Maduekwe loved adventures during his lifetime. He was during the second republic, an NPN Senator in the country’s Upper Chambers. Ojo Maduekwe was never apologetic about his membership of the NPN then considered a right wing party in Nigerian politics. Ojo was however left inclined in his ideological orientation.

All political parties in Nigeria’s second republic treated Ojo Maduekwe with respect. His political views were largely those of a moderate right wing opposition politician. My friend was never pretentious about his membership of the Conservative NPN in those days when right politics came to the fore in Nigeria between 1979 and 1983. Ojo’s liberal politics was not swallowed or doused by his membership of the NPN. I say it with the fear of God that Ojo Maduekwe never lost the ideals of the NPN which he carried on his body till party politics was disbanded by the Military during the second republic.

Our political paths crossed during our SDP days. Ojo Maduekwe was easily admired by me when we both met during the SDP days. Ojo was then very close to smooth talking Ambassador Baba Gana Kingibe who was then the National Chairman of the SDP. Ojo operated a successful partnership with Kingibe those days.

Ojo Maduekwe later joined the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) where he rose up to become the Foreign Minister for Nigeria under the President Olusegun Aremu Okikiola Obasanjo regime. Ojo Maduekwe was an excellent delight as Foreign Minister. During the second term of Olusegun Obasanjo as President, Ojo Maduekwe was moved to the Transport Ministry. He served Nigeria well in that Ministry. Ojo during his tenure as Transport Minister organized the first ever Conference of former Transport Ministers. It will be difficult for me to forget what Ojo did for me as Transport Minister. Where his predecessor in office had attempted to destroy my name; Ojo was unrelenting in his resolve to ensure that I was properly understood as Transport and Aviation Minister during the late Sani Abacha regime. I say it, with pride that Ojo Maduekwe means a lot to me and I will not forget it.

Ojo Maduekwe took all that happened to him in life with equal minds after the elections of 2011, many observers of Nigerian politics were stunned when Ojo Maduekwe was not announced as the Secretary to the Federal Government. He was the Co-ordinating Secretary of the Goodluck Ebele Jonathan Presidential Campaign Organisation.

Unfortunately, a conspiracy had developed within the Igbo Association that virtually worked against the interest of Ojo’s emergence as Secretary of the Government. This is a long story that has to be shelved for another day. Even many of us (Ojo’s friends) were largely bruised by the events. Ojo took the news very calmly and never allowed his emotions to betray his political frustrations.

Ojo Maduekwe was however appointed Nigeria’s Ambassador to Canada, Ojo Maduekwe made a great success of the appointment. It was the last duty post he held in Nigeria before his demise.

As General Secretary of the PDP, Ojo was a great success. As member of the PDP’s BOT, Ojo was a superstar. As an intellectual, Ojo was wonderful. Nigerians will remember Ojo’s flirtation with bicycle riding as a Federal Minister. He believed in all that he did. He never made himself a subject of pity for all his activities.

We will surely miss Ojo Maduekwe. He was a brilliant star who fought for all social rights of his fellow countrymen and women until he breathed his last.

Ojo, thank you for all your exploits! Ohafia will not forget you. We will remember you for all you have been to our country’s history – A patriot, nationalist, builder and social crusader.