FEATURE ARTICLE

Tuesday, August 18, 2020
amobipchuks@yahoo.com

THE BIG SHOES OF LATE CHIEF SIR ANTHONY OBIAGBAOSO ENUKEME
n my primary school days we read a book titled "Day by Day." It is an English language textbook. It is very interesting for beginners. In one of the chapters, the boy Obi came to school late because he couldn't walk fast due to the big (over size) pair of shoe he wore on that day. It was all drama when he arrived in the school. When he walked into the classroom, both the teacher and the pupils couldn't control their laughter. On interrogation, the class teacher discovered that Obi was wearing his father's shoes. It was like a rat driving a trailer. Imagine what it will look like when a boy of three years wears his father's pair of trousers. For the rest of the school period on that memorable day, Obi was the subject of discussion in all the classrooms and during recreation. As Obi was going home after school on that day, he created another dramatic scene by carrying the big shoes on his head. He used his school bag as pad. Many of the pupils were following him behind laughing and made mockery of him. They sang in unison: "Obi's big shoes! Obi's big shoes!! Obi's big shoes!!!" Obi himself did not mind as he was dancing to the tune of the song. This reminds me of one boy called Bathram in our street in Jos in those good old days. He used to wear big clothes meant for the elderly. Any time he came out we followed him amusedly behind singing: "Bathram baba rigar! Bathram baba rigar!! Bathram baba rigar!!!

Indeed wearing big shoes is not easy. Some years ago, I went to market and purchased an oversize pair of shoe with high hope that I would still grow bigger by height and size. In the interim I was using old newspaper to fill the gap every time I wore the big shoes. Walking in them was not easy for me. My steps altered drastically due to the over size. Often I walked like a tipper lorry carrying heavy trip of sand. As the tipper climbs a hill it makes deadly sound. Likewise as I walked along in the big shoes, strange sound accompanied me. During Christmas festivity that year, I put on the big shoes and went out with my friends to watch masquerades. On our way, one of the masquerades appeared from nowhere and gave us a hot chase. My friends all ran away with an unimaginable speed leaving me behind. I was just crawling like a millipede. As the masquerade was almost few poles behind me, I was buried in fear. When I attempted running faster, my big shoes left me and flew into the air. I abandoned them and ran into a nearby bush, breathing like a lizard that fell from an iroko tree. The masquerade stopped and started laughing at me. I was surprised to hear the masquerade laughing like a human being. Indeed I was disappointed that after two years I didn't grow as expected. Consequently, I discarded the big shoes. Had I known, I would have kept them as an exhibit. My name is Amobi. It seems that anyone that has 'obi' in his name wears big amusing shoes.

Unlike mine's and Obi's big shoes, which did not fit us, the big shoes of Chief Sir Anthony Obiagbaoso Enukeme, Akuvom and Onowu Neni of blessed memory sized him so well while he was on earth. His big shoes were made of silver and gold. They were exceptional. They were made in Aba in Abia State of Nigeria. He wore them as he traversed all the states of Nigeria and beyond. He did not inherit the big shoes from his father. He got them from many years of strenuous toil. He began as a pauper and ended up in opulence. Like the sun, he rose from the tiny town of Neni in Anaocha Local Government of Anambra State and set in the commercial city of Aba. From Aba his footprints became conspicuous in all the 36 States of Nigeria including Abuja Capital Territory. Like a bright star, the Tonimas filling station welcomes you in every state of the Federation. Sir Anthony Enukeme was the Chief Executive Officer of Tonimas Group of Companies: oil, transport, aluminium zinc, nails, hotels, table water, hospitality, etc.

Any wealth acquired abroad that does not reach home, hangs on the air. Hence the late icon shone in this aspect as the "Akurueuno" of Neni. Neni town is the home of Akuvom Obiagbaoso Enukeme. The small town which is situated in the heart of Anaocha has become the giant of Anambra State. The footprints of the late icon remain indelible in the breath and width of the town. He solely built most of the internal roads in the town. That was why I hinted earlier that if heaven can be assessed by road, then the indigenes and residents of Neni will first be there. The great man encouraged tourism by building one of the best hotels in the country popularly known as WHITE CASTLE HOTEL NENI (Ebe a no). Hundreds of people get their daily bread as employers in his Hotel, Aluminium Industry and Table Water factory situated at Neni.

Anthony Enukeme was not only known for his affluence, he was also very religious. He worked strenuously in the Lord's vineyard as a pious Catholic Christian both at home and at Aba. He never started the day without attending morning Mass. Also the Rosary was his daily companion. Consequently he became a high officer in the Knighthood of Saint John International (KSJI). Later, His Holiness Pope Francis, through the apostolic witness of the Catholic Bishop of Awka Diocese, Most Reverend Paulinus Chukwuemeka Ezeokafor, raised Sir Anthony Obiagbaoso Enukeme to the Papal Knight of Saint Gregory. If you saw him dressed as a Papal Knight, you would desire to be one. The cap fitted him so well.

Like King Solomon who built a temple for the Lord in the Old Testament, Sir Anthony Enukeme single handedly built Saint Agatha's Catholic Church, Aba, and Saint James Catholic Church, Neni, and all the sundry edifices within the two church premises. He built, equipped and donated the church edifices to Aba and Awka Dioceses respectively. He equally gave various churches financial support. I am very optimistic that God will compensate him with a beautiful mansion in heaven, all things being equal.

The wealth of a man is not what counts but what he does with it. Thus the late Anthony Enukeme was charitable to a fault. Thousands of people benefited from his largesse. He built houses for the homeless, widows and orphans. In his town Neni he built a giant orphanage home and donated it to the Trinitarian Sisters who care for orphans and needy children. He was preparing to sink a borehole there when death suddenly struck. It is a pity the vulnerable children in the orphanage home Neni till now has no portable water to drink and to do house chores. Who will bell the cat? The late charitable Tonimas, as he was popularly called, brought hope to the hopeless and gave scholarship to indigent students. He fed the hungry, clothed the naked and paid hospital bills for financially incapacitated sick patients. He doled out money, rice and meat to his villagers every Christmas. This made him the Father Christmas of Umudioka village Neni. All these beneficiaries have been thrown into mourning since the sudden demise of their benefactor.

The late Chief Sir Anthony Obiagbaoso Enukeme was till his death on that fateful Monday night, 8th June 2020, the Onowu (Prime Minister) of Neni. This made him the second in command in the traditional leadership of the town. He was the arrow-head in the formation of Anambra State Council of Ndi Onowu and was their chairman till his death. He also held the Ozo title. As the Onowu of Neni, he celebrated annual popular and beneficial New Yam festival. Many farmers cultivated acres of yams and cassava, hoping to clinch a prize during his 2020 New Yam Festival. Some who got loans to do massive cultivation are now crying and counting their losses. One of such hopeful debtors nearly committed suicide when he heard the news of Onowu Enukeme's sudden demise.

I am not trying to canonize Chief Sir Anthony Obiagbaoso Enukeme. As a human being, he was not perfect. He might have stepped on many toes with his big shoes. Also he might have erred in his thoughts, words, actions and omissions. For these we pray on his behalf that God may temper justice with mercy. Since charity covers a multitude of sins, we hope that he would be counted among the Saints. If he has already seen the Beatific Vision, thanks to God. But if he is undergoing purification in Purgatory, we continue to pray for his liberation and entrance into heaven. By the grace of God, we shall meet again with him to part no more on the Resurrection Day.

Finally, my concern for now is: WHO will wear the big shoes which Onowu Tonimas left behind? I attempted putting on the big shoes, but I nearly somersaulted due to the oversize. The big shoes are now on display at Neni Civic Centre for any willing contender. The caretaker of the big shoes is at hand daily to attend to any comer. Who will take them over? A trial will convince you!

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