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Respite for homeless 70-year-old



Respite for homeless 70-year-old

He was homeless and stranded after a thatched house he built after the Nigerian Civil war collapsed. But a three bedroom bungalow built for 70-year-old Chukwu Oko of Ezi Agbi Ukpa in Afikpo North Local Government Area of Ebonyi State by a philanthropist, Iheukwumere Okogwu Otu has saved him. UCHENNA INYA, in Abakaliki, reports


Chukwu Oko, a father of six, has seen a lot in his life after losing his father at a tender age. Because of poor background of his family, he started hustling and fending for himself at the age of 14. He has travelled to some places in the country including Lagos and Imo, in a bid to survive. He was a professional driver in Lagos for 20 years but had nothing to show for it.


Little wonder he was mocked by some of his kinsmen when he came back from Lagos with nothing. He returned to Afikpo, his hometown and started menial jobs at the popular building material market at Amasiri junction in the area known as timber shade, where he is still working till today. Things however did not change for Oko as he continued to witness hardship which affected him much as he did not marry early. He had no good house to live. He was living in a thatched house erected for him by someone who adopted him when he was a youth.


The thatched house was built for him by the man who adopted him when the man insisted that he must be circumcised according to the tradition of Afikpo to be qualified for marriage and other necessary things in the area. Oko gave the man the condition for him to be circumcised and insisted that a house must be built for him before the circumcision would be performed on him and the man erected the thatched house for Oko.


Oko later got married and lived with the wife and children in the thatched house. But the house collapsed and the man and his family were rendered homeless. A native of his village, Iheukwumere Okogwu Otu, however, came to the rescue and started building a cement house for him in place of the collapsed thatched house. It took Otu three years to complete the building as he was building the house with his salary as Special Assistant to a member of the state House of Assembly, Hon. Maria Ude Nwachi.


The three bedroom bungalow was handed over to Oko by Otu last Tuesday during his birthday. An elated Chukwu Oko said: “I am short of words because even if I work throughout my lifetime, I can’t build this house. This house collapsed and people stopped coming to us so that the remaining part of it can’t fall on them. Any time it is raining, I will be panicking a lot and afraid it may collapse completely and kill us. There was never a time I slept comfort  ably in this thatched house especially during raining season because of its bad condition.


“I don’t know Iheukwumere Okogwu who built this wonderful house for me. It is God that used him and provided this befitting house for me. I did not even know he is from my village. “I came in contact with this person when I went to drink in a joint at Omaka Ejali in our place. People rushed me and started harassing me that I owed them some money. When Okogwu saw what was happening, he rushed them and started fighting them and they left me.

“I asked people around whom the man that saved me was and they told me he is Nanlson’s son. From there, we became close and we started relating very well. From time to time, he brings bags of rice and other commodities to me. He has been so good to me and I don’t know what I will use and pay him back.


“This house which he demolished and built with cement block was a hut which was serving as a kitchen when we came back from the civil war in 1970. It was a local mere kitchen where my mother lived then. “My father died that time and someone adopted me and took me to Ozziza in Afikpo here.


The person told me that he wants me to be circumcised according to our tradition and I told him that my mother has no house and demanded that a house be built for her before I will be circumcised. The man later built the house with mud, palm fronds and other local materials. “I started hustling and went to Owerri Imo State, made little money and came back and changed the roof with zinc.


Because it was a mud house, a part of it collapsed and fell down and I became stranded. I got married newly when it fell down and it troubled me though I had hope that things will be better in future.


“My poor condition that time made me to love and appreciate people. I was happy that people were progressing and was assisting people the little I could.


Each time I come back from timber shade where I do menial jobs to earn a living, I will dash people the money I realized from it and came back empty. “I did not know that God will use it and reward me, especially as people were abusing me that I was dashing people money when I am very poor and have no house. I have been work ing in that Timber shade since 1990.


“I have six children and I did not marry early. Okogwu-Otu is very generous and does not eat alone.


If he comes where people are drinking, he will buy a cartoon of beer and give them. The only thing he hates is fighting because of the beer. Nobody will deny that he has not enjoyed what this man has.”


While handing over the house to Oko a fulfilled Okogwu- Otu said despite having limited resources, he dedicated his salary as Special Assistant to start the project in 2014, due to the fact that the beneficiary had been sleeping outside with his six children since 2007.


He said that, though he was contesting to represent Afikpo North East Constituency in Ebonyi State House of Assembly under Alliance for New Nigeria (ANN), the gesture does not have any political undertone but a token of appreciation for God’s blessings and protection since he was born. He said: “His house collapsed in 2007 and he was almost sleeping outside with his 6 kids for about 8 years.


I was passing there one day and saw the condition of where my fellow human being was living and instantly challenged myself to reconstruct the building. “I decided to use everything I get as salary to build this house. I took up this challenge in 2014 and I thank God that it is a success story today. So, I gave it out yesterday on my birthday, as a token of appreciation for God’s blessings and protection.


“I dedicated my salary as an S. A to Hon. Maria Ude Nwachi and built the house. I have built that house for over three years now. I built it as salary comes and when I exhaust the money as a salary, I hold on and wait for another salary to come.


“It was one Saturday morning we went for a communal work for our town hall when we were returning and I saw the building on the ground. It rained a night before the morning we went for the communal work and the building collapsed. “I told myself I can do something in this house and started planning towards it. In this life, I believe in determination and it has been working for me.


Thank goodness that today my courage has fetched me that building; my courage has helped me to assist humanity. My courage has helped to provide a shelter for this man”, he said.

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