At about 11:30p.m. on June 1, 2018, my phone rang. I picked the phone and it was Clement Ugochukwu Esq, a junior Counsel in the Law Firm of Chief Celestine Ughanze who was calling. I reluctantly picked the phone. He said: “Senior, my oga is dead.”
I exclaimed and responded: “How, when and why?” He replied: “My Oga died on the 29th day of May, 2018 in a motor accident somewhere in Ondo State.” Mr. Ugochukwu had no answer to why he died. After I heard the sad news of this unfortunate incident, sleep deserted me and I was awake thinking why Chief Ughanze should die. Throughout the remaining part of the night and day break I could not fathom an answer.
The Almighty God is omnipotent, omnipresence and omniscience. One thing God has hidden from man is to know when, how and why a man should die. It is only God that knows and determines when a man will die, how a man will die and why a man should die.
That is why people die in various ways. People also die at birth, very young age, average age and old age. And in whichever way and at what age a person dies, we lack the capacity to question God. I met Chief Ughanze in 1981 when I got admission into University of Nigeria, Enugu Campus to read Law. He also got admission the same year with me to read Law. As classmates, we interacted and became friends and our friendship continued until his demise. While we were in the university, Chief Ughanze was focused in his studies. He knew why he came to school. He did not allow some of those things that distract students and keep them beyond the regulated time to affect him. He graduated in flying colours with his mates in 1985 and was called to the Bar in 1986. Thereafter, he was enrolled as a Barrister and Solicitor of the Supreme Court of Nigeria.
He was a member of the NLS class of 1986, known for their distinguished achievements in the legal profession and other endeavours. He had successful legal practice before venturing into politics. It is usually said: a chick that will become a cock will be known or identified on the day it is hatched. Ughanze showed remarkable interest in student known politics. When Law Students Association House of Assembly was established, Ughanze was one of the foundation members.
He was repeatedly elected by members of his class and rose to become the Speaker of the Law Student House of Assembly. It was therefore not surprising when he left legal practice to join politics. I knew that he was moving into a familiar terrain.
He contested and won election into the House of Representatives, where he represented the good people of Oyi/Ayamelu Federal Constituency between 1999 and 2007. As a parliamentarian, he was alive to his responsibilities. He was chairman of various committees of the House and also served as a member in some committees of the House. Chief Ughanze was a man with principle and very scrupulous. He was a man who neither stands on the fence nor pretends to be neutral on any issue. Once he has made up his mind and takes a position he remains in that position even if he finds himself in the minority.
He never supported anything or policy that will be detrimental to his constituents and Igbo people in general. Little wonder, he teamed up with like minds to shoot down the Third Term Agenda of the erstwhile administration of this country. In all his dealings and relationships with people he was transparent, honest, reliable and dependable.
He was a grassroots man who loved his people of Umunya and identified with them in all ramifications. He was also loved by his people and was rewarded by his people with the conferment of a chieftaincy title of “Ifeadika Nwanne”. True to his title he appreciates relations and even treat his friends as if they are his relations. He was a devout catholic and a good family man. He was always willing to assist any person in need. A song writer once wrote that we will only be remembered by what we have done in this world when we are gone. I will remember my bosom friend, Chief Ughanze for his uprightness, integrity, his affection to relations and friends, his insistence to see that things are done in the right way, his incorruptible nature, his love for God, his forthrightness and his dependability.
Adieu Chief Ughanze, an honourable gentleman. While I pray to God for the repose of his gentle soul in the bosom of our Lord, I would urge the wife, children and family members to bear this irreparable loss with fortitude. They should look unto God who in ages past has been our help. In the years to come, He will be our hope. He will shelter us from this and future stormy blasts. May it be so in Jesus name. Amen. To every member of the Uganze family, please accept my heartfelt condolences.
*Chief Akuma (MON) is a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN).
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