There is some difficulty in writing this. My faith asserts that death is not final but the departure of EII compels another test to convince that this is only another chapter of our lives. Because my life with him had spanned upwards of thirty years, his presence to chat with, or shoot the breeze somewhere was always taken for granted. An iroko has fallen!
We became family as we had moved into the neighbourhood early in 1989 and soon had this neighbour who was ever present at our nearby Parish Church and was prone to teasing my infant children too.That became his trademark, the humanism of EII: he would chat with the high and mighty, and mingle with the lowly too; hardly discriminating and remain cheerful all through the day.
I attest to this man, one of the most accomplished Nigerians of his generation, who never wore his ranking on his sleeves and shunned appurtenances, the gloryand protocols.Even in our shared brotherhood.
For a long time, he was my sounding board. For his candour and network of persons and events, EII could place every situation in enlightened context for a career minded executive as I was then andgrowing. And then his humour! He enabled your conversation and argument by his naturalness. His calling as an accountant and bean counter only showed when he danced with numbers and figures. Clear headed always and ever ready to stand alone on his point of view. He could be a contra man without the arrogance often associated with high rank.
EII was a famous workaholic. Was he restless? Obviously because he engaged in a spectrum of causes for the common good. Very often, he will shed his corporate mien from a busy workday to run into the Church and, within minutes, turn to duties as Church warden without losing a stride!
In 1997,he and late Commodore Anthony Ikhazoboh nominated me to the Church of the Assumption Falomo Parish Council. I arrived as Second Assistant Secretary and was privileged to serve variously on that Council until 2022.He was there all along hands-on.
EII became the Parish Council Chairman and I dare say, that so much of his life’s work took place on the platform of that Falomo Parish Council.
He was a thorough bred Catholic man, imbued with very robust instincts for Catholic action. For several decades, EII was an ambassador of the Church and the Parish. I was lucky to work closely with him. He was a natural organiser, a details man, cobbling disparate persons and groups to a task in the Parish, often successfully. Holding the hands of overworked priests, tutoring them on the norms and traditions of the place, trouble shooting in a parish of many enlightened Catholics, mediating in standoffs, the resolution of several squabbles. EII was instrumental to the formation of many Organisations spending time, talent and treasure. He had a such a full plate for several years it became easy to classify him as a fixed asset of Falomo!
As he got his diagnosis on July 15, 2022 and the reconfirmation on the 19th, we saw the fighter in him. He struggled and fought for 18 months for precious life.! He immersed himself in the work of the Thinktank for a better Nigeria, as passionately as ever. He had so much oxygen from the engagement with diverse generations and peoples in the course of our work until March 23. No one has recalled any patient being so knowledgeable and expressive in detailing his health challenge. The candour of EII was there to listen to. Many were numbed by the frankness of the man and others were in tears.
I saw him insist on meeting obligations to attend brotherhood meetings using the inconvenient staircase at great physical pain. He told me he would accept no waiver and would have it no other way.
EII, through the last six months gave us an example of dignity in pains and suffering, through his ill health he showed to family and friends the courage a man can bring to bear on life and imminent departure.
Oga mi, your life story is out there but with my family and I, you have left a legacy of genuine mentorship and friendship.
You have left a testament as a man of courage and humour in difficult hours. You, who sought no honours even where you eminently dwarfed those being serenaded. Accomplished and distinguished, you were a leader with a large dose of humility and empathy. Though you kept saying tome, that you are only a Lafiaji boy, it is obvious that you are a citizen ofthe world, urban and suave.We salute all you have done to make this world a better place.
Another of your instructions is to thank your Lady Jayne,the love of your life.Yes,she shone through our ordeal. Her pains couched in love, energy, calm and graciousness held out to all the family and friends,arein themselves, a fitting tribute toa thoroughly bonded family. Another example of courage and grace.
We shall miss your presence, an assuredness, but God has taken your pains away and He knows best. Blessed be the name of the Lord. I know He will put you in His Army. Him, will grant consolation to the family and so many beholden to you.
Farewell, my Oga, friend and brother. Pax Christi to you.
• Ogbuefi Tony J.K. Nnachetta, FCS, F. IoD, Ksm can be reached on P.O.Box 51810, Falomo, Lagos, Nigeria;