PASSAGE

Farewell To A Godly, Honorable Man!

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By Emeka Oparah

I’ve been so devastated by the demise of Chief Victor Ikwuemesi, founder of Sosoliso Airlines, one of my benefactors and a very good man indeed, that I’ve not been able to put together my thoughts for a tribute. But here we go!

I almost suffered a CVA reading of his demise, in the UK from COVID-19, in a Whatsapp Group-one of the dangers of breaking these stories with little or no consideration for family and friends! Imagine checking into a WhatsApp group and learning for the first time of the demise of someone you love! That was me two weeks ago!

Anyway, I immediately called his son, Oscar, who’s unfortunately trapped in the US and wasn’t anywhere near his dear and illustrious father when he breathed his last. Alas he confirmed it and memories of the man, an honorable man, a generous man, a Godly man overwhelmed me.

I met Chief Ikwuemesi over 20 years ago in very interesting circumstances. He had read an Op-Ed piece I contributed to The Guardian on Sunday (when The Guardian Op-Ed page was still revered) and wondered aloud to a Roman Catholic Priest friend of his how he could find me. It turned out the priest, Rev. Fr. Charles Omotu-Nwigwe, was my friend too. Fr. Charles called me right there and then to speak to the Chief. The next weekend, Chief Ikwuemesi hosted us to a sumptuous lunch in his modest but classy Ilupeju home and we thus started a very wonderful relationship.

Chief was a giver, generous almost to a fault. When my Dad passed away in 2003, Chief stood by me and my family. His airline conveyed my Dad’s body free from Lagos to Owerri complete with all the paperwork! In addition, he offered me and my family 8 free return tickets.

In 2005, when my younger brother, Fr. ND (the first of my two siblings who are Roman Catholic priests) was ordained, Chief Ikwuemesi lent his support as usual. I can’t forget that, in addition to other things, he signed his signature on his business card to enable Fr. ND fly Sosoliso FREE to anywhere, anytime, until the airline crashed with the unfortunate Port Harcourt mishap.

Indeed Chief, as a matter of fact, became more like a father to me-always following up on my progress(at home and at work) and offering wise counsel here and there, now and then-for which I’ll ever be in debt of gratitude. I can’t forget waking up one morning to see an urgent text message asking me to see him. I was so scared I rushed to his house without taking a shower. He observed my tensed mood when I refused breakfast and so he quickly assured me there was nothing wrong really but there was something right he needed to tell me before he forgot:

“Emeka”, he started, “you know there are not many of you, young Igbo boys, in top visible positions in corporate Nigeria compared to other parts of the country. Please, my son, keep your eyes on the ball. Do your job like your life depends on it. Of course, your life depends on it-as well as that of your family and relatives. I’ve seen how you rally everybody around you. If anything happens to you, it will be a big blow to all of us. Please do your job well. I know you’re good at what you do. Most importantly, do not steal, please. Do not do deals. Ighotago?” I listened with rapt attention as he drummed it right inside my fat head.

Forever and ever, I will value that advice, that moment. It plays back constantly on my mind like a 3-D video, so crystal clear. And it wasn’t because I hadn’t heard such an advice before or I was doing the things he warned me against, but the way he delivered it and the fact that he thought of me so dearly. He was very loving and caring.

I also recall three years ago or so, when his daughter got married and he personally called to invite me to the event. Right glad am I to have attended and sat close to him. Imagine small me rubbing shoulders with Chief’s big friends! Fr. Charles, who came from the US to officiate the wedding, couldn’t stop marveling at the size and quality of the crowd that attended the wedding, as we drove back home. How could I have known it was going to be our last public outing together?

An affable and God-fearing man, it deserves repetition to say Chief Ikwuemesi was generous to a fault and loved others as he loved himself and his family. He touched many lives. He typified the candle that offered its light for several others to be lit! I pray the Great Architect of the Universe forgives him his shortcomings and imperfections and admits him into Heaven above for a deserved peaceful rest.

To Oscar, my brother and friend, I say take heart, Nwanne m. As your senior in this ghastly business of fatherlessness, I can tell you the wound may heal but the pain and scar will never go away. Take solace, however, not only in the promise of resurrection but in the knowledge that your father was a good man who lived a good life and did good deeds too numerous to mention. Take heart, Bro.

May his amazing soul rest in perfect peace. Amen

  • Oparah is Director, Corporate Communications and PR at Airtel Nigeria.

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