hose who were advantaged by fluke to have known Nze Sunny Orji Ogbu intimately will certainly be tempted to believe in his immortality and would suppose that such a man bursting of charisma, vibrancy, grace and infectious humour could not die, talk less of being cut down by assassin's bullet. How could a sane person slay a socialite so charming, gifted, rich in hilarity and endless, resonant laughter.
Yet, last Monday, a friend of mine blotched my day when he called me from Owerri to break the heartrending news of Sunny's death. He had known Sunny closely like me. We all grew up in Aba in the good old days and were, in fact, part of the golden generation of "Aba Boys". We were all privileged children whose fathers were members of the famous Peoples Club of Nigeria and Aba Recreation Club. "Parker," my friend said, "Have you had what is happening?" "What?" I impulsively retorted. "Nze-o, Nze-o." I held my breath. "They have killed Nze-o," he finally struggled to tell me, almost crying. For some moments my heart stopped.
When I eventually recovered, I shouted and thundered in disbelief and at last, after a few questions bothering on how it happened, in my agony I asked childishly: "So it means I will never see Nze again?" I learned from my friend that Nze Sunny Orji Ogbu was returning from a campaign rally the previous day when hired gunmen buttonholed his convoy and pumped in bullets into his body to slice him down at the prime of his life that glittered like diamond.
Nze, as he is fondly called, was vying to get the PDP ticket into the House of Representatives for the Ideato North and South Constituency. As expected, fingers are pointing at his opponents, who obviously must have felt threatened by this charming candidate that you can't help liking. Especially when people are beginning to believe that there will be free and fair primaries and elections in 2011.
The last time I met Nze was at Jevinik Restaurant in Wuse 2 Abuja, when I walked in for lunch one arid afternoon in August. He was already in the middle of his when I arrived. That was the first time I saw him since 17 years. The last time was in 1993 when we were both staff of The Nigerian Statesman Newspapers. Then I was the Acting Sports Editor while he was a member of the Editorial Board, before I left for Germany and he later went to Israel to chase the Golden Fleece.
On entering Jevinik, the first glance I shot to my right caught a man smiling broadly to me. Before I could probe who it was, "Parker CJ," he shouted and beckoned on me to join his table, which I did. After I sat beside him, I placed my order right away, which Nze, as usual, generously paid for in spite of remonstration from me. As we ate, we talked and talked about life since the need to become men forced us to part ways in 1993. Eventually, he told me of his ambition to run for the House of Representatives under the platform of the PDP in Imo State. Intuitively, knowing how politics works here in Nigeria, the first thing I asked him was if he had the blessing of Governor Ikedim Ohakim. He told me no. I breathed deep. "Then how do you intend to win?" I asked curiously. Nze, in his habitual unshakable confidence, assured me that though he is not in Ohakim's camp he was going to triumph. And that even Ohakim, himself is not sure of coming back - based on the activities of his group to unseat him. Notwithstanding this, I was skeptical; however I wished him well and told him to be careful.
As we ate, Nze also wanted to find out from me when I will be coming back home for good as he has done, and in fact doing well in his business. I simply told him that I am very fervent to come back home but that the conditions are still not right - singling out chiefly the terrible state of security in the country among other things. Nze spoke in pieces and at length to lure me into believing that things are not as bad as it is been painted. And that Nigeria is working. When at the end he found out that I was still negative about Nigeria, he accused me of having been brainwashed and Germanized.
Nze's love for his fatherland baited him back from the Diaspora and made him aspire to contribute his part in the building and shaping of the Nigerian Nation. Little did he agree with me that the country has been hijacked by evil men who thrive by making sure that nothing works, and who will stop at nothing in precluding Nigeria's bright and patriotic children from getting a chance to play any significant role. The country he loves and defended so much gave him nothing in return, not even security. I remember telling him at Jevinik that Nigeria is a failed state. I love this country very much too, and no matter how much those benefiting from the present lawlessness pretend to love Nigeria more, any country that can not fulfill a crucial part of the social contract between itself and its people - which is to secure lives and properties - has all the frills of a failed state.
How could things like this happen in a country that lays claim to civilization? In Nigeria today, assassins operate in broad daylight and hack their victims to death with so much impunity and nothing happens thereafter. Can someone remember any resolved case of political assassination in this country? Not even when a serving Attorney General of the Republic was killed.
So much buzz has been made about holding free and fair election in 2011. But I always have maintained that there can be no free and fair election when there is no guarantee of security. It would mean that people are already disenfranchised by being daunted out of their ambition due to fear of being harassed or killed. It would further connote that many Nigerians would be afraid to go out on election day to vote due to the activities of thugs hired by political charlatans. As I have said in so many articles, and like I told Nze, until we stop denying and pretending that things are not terrible and until we accept that we have failed as a Nation and start anew on a new-fangled foundation, this country will never move forward. It will continue to suffer both ideological and developmental malaise.
Typical of Nigeria, I have heard top government officials talking of making Nigeria one of the top 20 countries come 2020. Worse still, the government is earmarking trillions of Naira to realize such a willow-the-wisp. The truth, for any one who cares to know, is that Nigeria can never overtake, at least in our life time, any of the countries making up the present European Union. So, instead of wasting such enormous money on a silly wild goose chase, let us use it to fix at least security that will guarantee free and fair elections. Let there be no mistake, until there are free and fair elections, Nigeria will remain in doldrums. There could only be progress when the right people are at the helm and when they are coerced to be accountable and responsible through the fear of reckoning come Election Day.
Nze, my friend, had the dream of serving his people but the enemies of those people dastardly thwarted that dream from coming true. At this point, it is useless to envision what impact his service would have had of those people's lives if that dream was not sliced by the assassin's bullets. Nevertheless, one thing is lucid, the Chief Security Officer in Imo State has generally come short of his oath of office and must accept responsibility for the killing of Nze Sunny Orji Ogbu, which came on the heels of the assassination of a prominent business woman in Owerri. This failure now confines him in the compartment of damage control and he has to purge himself of his failure by making sure that those who slashed this rare gem I knew, do not get away with their gruesome crime.
Those who masterminded the extermination of Nze are the most callous people on this planet. My late friend was a shinning moment of what a human being should be. He touched many lives during his sojourn here on earth. To be around Nze, is to enjoy his endless jokes and to laugh until tears trickle down your cheeks. He left ineffaceable marks on the minds of all those who knew him and those who crossed his path in life. Nze was an unimpeachable philanthropist and a broad minded Man of the People, who silently provided succour for the needy without singing about it. He was someone who did not need a podium to be kind. This leaves me at a loss as to the kind of people that will sit on a table and hatch his riddance. But until they are found, the ghost of Nze will continue to torment them.
Life is a walk. Nze started his from a tiny street in Aba and ambled his way to become a business icon in Abuja. It was a short walk to success and fame as he bestrode life like an unshakable colossus, with a sane morality and deep rooted convictions of what he wanted for himself. And at the end, his aficionados, and his young family could only look back at his life and times and be proud of him. Adieu! My friend.