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ODALIJE’S TRANSITION AND LAST OFALA: A PERIOD OF MOURNING AND CELEBRATION IN UMUAVULU ABOR

Ujaligwa Corner

ODALIJE’S TRANSITION AND LAST OFALA: A PERIOD OF MOURNING AND CELEBRATION IN UMUAVULU ABOR

 

Written By

Chukwunonso A Aniekwe Esq. (LLM, in view)

justiceaniekwe@gmail.com; ujaligwacorner@gmail.com

Edited By

Ojel Anidi Ph.D

ojelanidi@imt.edu.ng

Considering the nature of true greatness in men, Henry Eyring said that “the people who can catch hold of men’s minds and feelings and inspire them to do things bigger than themselves are the people who are remembered in history”.

The history of HRM Igwe Dr. Callistus Chukwuemeka Obi Njeze (Odalije, Ujaligwa II) has been on the lips of all that have come across him or heard about him. Much of those histories were remembered and told at the different events marking Odalije’s burial/funeral and Last Ofala, and those histories will no doubt remain ever green in their hearts.

The truth is that Odalije’s story will overwhelm any writer. In the same way, the story of all the events marking his burial/funeral and Last Ofala can also not be exhaustively narrated by any single writer, as these events were tremendously planned and massively attended by people from all spheres of life, from Nigeria and beyond. The Enugu State Governor, His Excellency, Rt. Hon. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, was not exempted as he featured in the events.

From Wednesday the 7th day of April 2021 to Sunday the 11th day of April, all roads led to Umuavulu Abor as people trooped into the town to celebrate this great hero. Prior to the burial date, the Umuavulu Abor Youths had hosted a novelty match in his honour, on Easter Sunday, 4th April, 2021. An attempt has been made to capture the events of these days as follows:

Wednesday 7th April, 2021

The burial events started on Wednesday 7th April, 2021. His body departed Eastern Nigeria mortuary around 8:03am to Bridget’s Court (BMC), Off No 10A Ezike Street, New GRA, Trans-Ekulu, where the Eucharistic mass was celebrated for him, with Rev. Fr. Anthony Ozoani as the Chief celebrant amongst other seventeen officiating priests. The first and second readings of the mass were read by Dr. Agozie Eneh and Dr. Oliaku Eneh (Nee Njeze, Ada Ujaligwa) respectively.

After the mass, the body, in company of various relations, including Odalije’s children, and Umuada, all uniformly dressed in dark African prints, each holding nza-inyinya, ceremonial horse tails, was conveyed to the Institute of Management and Technology (IMT) Enugu, where Odalije held the position of Rector (1991-1999), for a valedictory session. The valedictory was held at the IMT International Conference Centre, Campus III, Independence Layout, Enugu. The body arrived around 11:00am and was received by the Rector of IMT, Professor Augustine Nweze, in company of the Chaplain of St. Augustine Catholic Chaplaincy, IMT, Enugu, Rev. Fr. Dr. Ikechukwu Ani. Thereafter, a procession of robed academic staff led the body into the Conference hall. All principal officers of the Institute were in attendance, including the Chairman of the IMT Governing Council, Chief Mrs. Ifeoma Nwobodo, the Rector, Prof. Augustine Uchecukwu Nweze, The Deputy Rector Engr. Sunday Udeh, the Registrar, Dr. (Mrs) Ijeoma Aneke who was represented by Mrs Nnamchi, and the Chief Librarian, Dr. Innocent Eze.

Odalije's body being blessed by Rev. Fr. Dr. Ikechukwu Ani in IMT
Odalije’s body being blessed by Rev. Fr. Dr. Ikechukwu Ani in IMT
Portrait from IMT community
Portrait from IMT community

Also in attendance were members of Odalije’s family; his sons, Messrs Ekwochi Njeze, Enechi Njeze and Emeka Njeze with their wives and his first daughter Dr. Oliaku Eneh and her husband Dr. Agozie Eneh. Others were Hon. Justice Ngozi Oji, Hon. Justice Angela Anidi, Chief Arch. Ralph Anidi, Chief Dr. Obiora Anidi (the Deputy Provost, ESCET, Enugu), Chief Chike Onodugo (Ezedinobi), Chief (Barr) Matthew Obodoechi (Ochiagha), Chief Elias Ani (Onowu Ujaligwa), Chief Mrs Fidelia Njeze, Dr. Netchy Mbaeze, the President General of Umuavulu Abor, Mr. Dubem Njeze, amongst others, not to mention the IMT staff, lecturers and administrative staff who came out in their numbers.

The master of the ceremony, Dr. Ifeanyi Ojobor, did the protocols, introduced the event, and rendered his tribute and that of the Rector. He recounted Odalije’s numerous achievements while he was the Rector:

  • Odalije acquired the Institute’s estate in Abuja,
  • established the Estate Management Department and Agric Engineering Department,
  • employed many staff of the Institute at a time when most of the staff of the Institute deserted IMT and Enugu, after the creation of Enugu and returned to their states,
  • established the Man O’War group to fight against cultism,
  • On interpersonal relationships, Odalije kicked against unnecessary bachelorhood of his staff,
  • encouraged and sponsored marriages of his staff, and
  • motivated his staff not only to write and publish articles but also to consistently improve on their academic qualifications.

He ended by calling Odalije ‘a saint’. And on behalf of the IMT board, management and staff, the Rector prayed to God to grant Odaije’s soul eternal rest. Other distinguished speakers and academicians who poured their hearts vide their tribute to Odalije were Dr. Okay Ikenegbu who is the Director of the School of Art, Design and Printing Technology; Dr. Ogo Okanya, the Director of Degree Programmes; Mr. Anthony Obingene, Chairman Open Forum of Common Minds and the Director of the School of General Studies, all from the IMT, Enugu; and Dr. Stan Ukeje who represented Odalije’s old academic friends in IMT.

The highlight of the event was the presentation of an artwork (banner) to the leader of Njeze by the IMT community, led by Dr. Okay Ikenegbu. There was also the paying of the last respects to Odalije, filing pass his body, by the IMT community. This was followed by votes of thanks by Dr. Ojel Anidi (Director of Research and Development, IMT), representing the IMT community, and Mr. Ekwochi Njeze, representing the Njeze family. Dr. Anidi concluded her bit by rendering a beautiful eulogy to Odalije. Benediction/closing prayer was led by the Chaplain, Dr. Ikechukwu Ani, at 1:27pm. Wherein after, Odalije’s body departed.

The next stop-over was at Afia mmanya in Obinagu Udi, the inlaws of Odalije, marrying his only daughter. The body was received by Chief (Onogolu) Sir Cyril Nnabuike Eneh (Igirigioma Obinagu), alongside other members of the Eneh family, in addition to the regent, members of the Igwe-in-Council and the entire people of Obinagu Udi, represented. Chief Eneh rendered a passionate tribute to Odalije, followed by that of the Regent of Obinagu. The highlight of the event was the presentation of two big cows to honour Odalije. There were also refreshments and prayers by a priest before the body left Obinagu for Udi Local Government headquarters.

stop-over was at Afia mmanya in Obinagu Udi
Stop-over was at Afia mmanya in Obinagu Udi
Chief (Onogolu) Sir Cyril Nnabuike Eneh rendered tribute to Odalije
Chief (Onogolu) Sir Cyril Nnabuike Eneh rendered tribute to Odalije

The body arrived at Udi Local Government headquarters at about 3:15pm and was received by members of the Udi Traditional Rulers Council under the Chairmanship of HRH Igwe Paul Ogbodo (Achala oma) of Akama Amankwo Ngwo.

The traditional rulers rendered their tributes after Igwe Apostle Kingsley Chime led the opening prayer. The highlight of the event was when the Secretary read the valedictory speech on behalf of the Council, which included the minutes of the last meeting of the Council that Odalije attended and made contributions. Thereafter, Mr. Enechi Njeze delivered his vote of thanks, and as well as appreciated the traditional council, acknowledging the praises and complements they gave his father. The closing prayer was also led by HRM Igwe Apostle Kingsley Chime at about 3:52pm.

Body arrives at Udi Local Government headquarters
Body arrives at Udi Local Government headquarters
Udi LGA traditional rulers paying their last respect.

While the body left the local government headquarters for Abor, there was a brief stop at Chief Obi and Amoge Ogakwu’s (odalije’s niece and husband), house where several gun salutes to Odalije were fired. Then, the body of Odalije and the entire convoy finally headed for Umuavulu Abor.

At about 4:30pm, Odalije’s convoy entered Umuavulu Abor and was heralded by several cannon gun salutes and a rousing welcome by Umuada Umuozor all in their red-dyed traditional attire and performing some well-practised folk lyrical poems in praise of Odalije.

From Umuavulu, Odalije’s convoy, which had become quite huge, passed through Ugwu-ufe and was received at Afor Ofufe at about 5:18pm, with several gun salutes. There was musical interlude by the Ode cultural dance group before the convoy continued through Late Igwe L. U. Ukwu’s house, through Ngwuagu, and at the Okolo’s, Odalije was received with one hundred cannon gun salute organized by Chief Ejike Okolo (Ezebunugwu) and elder brother, Chief Joe Okolo (Ebube Dike). The people of Ngwuagu trooped out to welcome Odalije and wave at the convoy.

Odalije was also received back in Umuavulu at 5:51pm and taken to his Palace. Shortly after, the wake/ night of tributes started with a Eucharistic mass. Very Rev. Fr. Christopher Chukwueze, the Parish Priest of St Theresa Catholic Church, Umuavulu Abor, was the Chief celebrant, amongst other officiating priests. The homily was rendered by Very Rev Fr. Dr. Michael Chime. The mass ended by 8:21pm as the Night of Tributes proper commenced at about 9:55pm.

Engr. Chukwubuikem Evaristus Njeze (Akalusia) led the team of four masters of ceremony, that evening. The event started with an opening speech made by the Planning Committee Chairman, Chief. (Barr.) Matthew C Obodoechi, fsi (Ochiagha n’Abor) wherein after a video of the Life and Times of Odalije was displayed.

There was also music interlude by Mr. Eric Mbaeze and his team at 10:18pm, followed by Igbu evu (praise singing) by Umuada Umu Njeze Echewe, which was also followed by video presentations of tributes from a good number of people, from far and near, for Odalije. There were at different points and stages musical presentations from different cultural groups such as Ezedinikorobia Cultural group, led by Biggie; Igede Obinagu Udi; Ode gede; and Galaxy Cultural Group. There were also dances by family and the different wards/ villages of Umuavulu and Abor in general. There was also a visual display of the reception of Odalije by the Okolo’s family done earlier on that day, followed by the presentation by an indigenous music star ‘Kene’ who gave a special number and a tribute to Odalije. The event continued till around 3:20am.

Thursday 8th April, 2021

Thursday the 8th day of April, 2021 was indeed significant as it was the day the saintly Odalije was lowered to mother earth to join his ancestors. The requiem mass began by 10:30am. The mass was celebrated by a host of indigenous and non-indigenous priests. The first and second readings were taken by Mr. Ekwochi and Mr Enechi Njeze respectively, whereas Rev. Fr. Prof Augustine Akubue gave an erudite emotional albeit controversial homily. Akubue in his sermon pointed out the indispensability of death in the life of every creature and added that we are all living on borrowed time, being that death awaits all men. He analysed some philosophy of life and death, recounting the life and times of Odalije and how Odalije’s life contributed to the development of many, to the glory of God. He finally prayed that his soul may rest in peace. After the mass, Ekwochi Njeze gave the vote of thanks and welcomed the guests and dignitaries that came, while the parish priest of St. Theresa’s Catholic Church, Very Rev. Fr. Christopher Chukwueze, acknowledged the officiating priests and other clergies and the lay faithful.

The body was taken to the Njeze compound after the mass, for internment, with members of the family, in-laws, Igwe-in-Council, including the officiating priests, being present. The burial took place by 1:13pm, followed by gun salutes. The National Anthem was rendered by the members of Man O’War of the IMT, Enugu that graced the event in their numbers, fully dressed and with their musical instruments. Entertainment followed immediately at both St. Theresa’s Field where in-laws, visitors, special guests and others were hosted and inside the Orie Market Square, where the villagers were hosted. More so, the Njeze family had their canopy in the market square where people went for condolence and registered their presence.

Amongst the people that came to condole with the family on the 8th were the Enugu State Governor, represented by Hon. Chiemelie Agu (MD, Enugu State Housing Corporation), and Hon. (Barr.) Obiora George Ani (Commissioner, Enugu State Independent Electoral Commission, ENSIEC). Others were the Eneh family of Obinagu Udi, the families of Onodugo, Offiah, Ben Ngwu (all of Abor), the Institute of Estate Surveyors and Valuers, the IMT Community, Odalije Boys (comprising friends and Heads of various departments during Odalije’s tenure at the IMT), CIC Old Boys Association, etc.

In fact the event held concurrently at both the school field and the Orie Market Square with different musical groups playing and dancing to the listening and viewing pleasure of guests and the people of Abor, with several cannon gun shots released at intervals throughout the event. There was also the traditional oso ikpa at 4:30pm inside the Orie Market Square and the entire villagers of Umuavulu Abor participated. The event ended around 6:15 pm with lots of several gun shots.

Friday 9th April, 2021

Although Friday the 9th of April, 2021 was not officially fixed for any event, however, condolences continued as friends and relatives of the family still trooped in, in their numbers, to the Njeze family house to condole with the family.

Importantly, the entire Obodoechi family of Umuavulu Abor also came in one accord to condole with the Njeze family. More so, the Umuavulu Abor Cultural Reform Committee, Chaired by Chief Prof. Obinna D. Onodugo, (a Professor of Medicine and the Chief Medical Director of the University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital) also came in grand style to honour their departed patriarch and custodian of Umuavulu Abor Culture, Odalije, of the blessed memory.

Saturday 10th April, 2021

The people of Abor witnessed another great day, most unprecedented in her history, on Saturday the 10th day of April, 2021. It was a very colourful event with massive turn out of people from all spheres of life from Nigeria and beyond. At noon and thereafter, on that day, people started gracing the event – both the school field and the market square were filled to capacity. The event took off in earnest with the arrival of the executive Governor of Enugu State, His Excellency, Rt. Hon. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, by 2:02pm, with the National Anthem taken by 2:07pm. The Governor was received by the former Minister of Aviation, Chief (Mrs) Fidelia Akuabata Njeze, Chief (Onogolu) Sir Cyril Nnabuike Eneh (Igirigioma Obinagu), Princess and Princes of Ujaligwa, Chief Dr. Chilo Offiah MFR, OON (Ezedike-Okwuruoha) and Chief (Barr) M C Obodoechi fsi (Ochiagha), with Dr. Agozie Eneh anchoring the governor’s reception.

Moreover, Galaxy Band welcomed the Governor with special song from Celestine Ukwu before Chief Chilo Offiah at about 2:22pm took the stage and welcomed the Governor, with a heart filled with gratitude for availing himself, irrespective of his tight schedule, to mourn and celebrate Odalije’s Last Ofala with the good people of Umuavulu Abor.

Thereafter, the Enugu Cultural Troupe treated the Governor to some special lyrics, for example, Igede Obinagu. One of the highlights of the Governor’s reception was a display of assorted masquerades from Udi, who came courtesy of Dr. Agozie Eneh, husband of Princess Dr. Oliaku Eneh (Ada Ujaligwa), Odalije’s first daughter. Importantly, the Governor was treated to some beautiful eulogies (igbu evu) performed by the Umuada Umu Njeze. Among the people who rendered the eulogies were Dr. Oliaku Eneh, Mrs Afy Etta, Mrs Nnenna Eze, Mrs Nneka Agueze, Dr. Judy Ume Ukeje, Mrs Ogochukwu  Onwudinjo, including the Umu-mulu-amu-be Njeze, Professor Nkem Thessy Fab-Ukozor and Hon. Justice Ngozi Oji; wives of Odalije’s sons: Oluwakemi Njeze, Agama Amanda Njeze and Chidimma Njeze; and even the Njeze wives, as well as Chief (Mrs) Fidelia Njeze. The Governor left the field at 2:52pm to the family house of Odalije, and the event continued at the school field. There was another display of great masquerades from Eke brought by another in-law to the Njeze family, Ozo Batho Udeaba, and his convoy, including Ozor Damian Ozoani, SAN.

masqurade

Odalije’s Last Ofala was also graced by several family relations, in-laws and friends of the Njezes: the Anidis, the Ikenyis, the Ukozors of Orlu, the Orjis of Enugwu Ngwo, the Agbalas, the Uke family of Anambra, the Meffuls family of Lagos and in-law to Ekwochi Njeze, amongst other families, and State dignitaries, like the Enugu State Chief of Staff, Dr. Festus Uzor.

The Udi Traditional Rulers Council led by HRH Igwe Paul Ogbodo (Achala oma) of Akama Amankwo Ngwo who is the Chairman of the Council also graced the event with other members of the Council and traditional rulers of many communities in Udi.

Other people that graced the event in their styles were the Umuavulu Abor Council of Chiefs led by the Onowu, Chief Elias O. Ani, Ndi Nze Umuavulu Abor, and the Umuavulu Progressive Union (UPU) led by the President General, Dr. Chris N. Mbaeze.

The Last Ofala continued concurrently in the school field and in the orie market square where the 14 villages had their refreshments. It could be recalled that the Onowu Ujaligwa and the President General of UPU alongside other red cap Chief and ndi Nze, had earlier gone round the school field to welcome and greet the numerous guest seated at the school field.

There was the usual oso ikpa at 6:10pm at the Orie Market Square which was done according to zones. The event ended around 6:20pm with several gun shots.

Sunday 11th day of April

The family of Njeze and the entire Umuavulu Abor people went for a thanksgiving mass on Sunday, the 11th day of April, at St. Theresa Catholic Parish, Umuavulu Abor. Mr. Ekwochi Njeze, while delivering his vote of thanks to the Church for their support, on behalf of the family, presented the parish priest with a fat cow.

It could also be recalled that as part of the preparation for the Last Ofala, the Njeze Echewe family had on Friday the 9th of April, 2021 presented 14 cows to the 14 villages of Umuavulu Abor, one for each, for them to slaughter and prepare ahead of the Ofala which happened on the 10th of April, 20201. The villages were also given a big bag of rice each and two bags of semolina each with the sum of fifteen thousand naira each for them to buy condiments.

More so, the Njeze Echewe family, later, on Sunday, 11th April, 2021, hosted all the entire committees that planned the whole events and also presented two fat cows to them in appreciation of their good works.

The family have since then, continued to receive visitors who often come to mourn with them; and on Saturday the 17th of April, 2021, the family and the entire people of Abor, concluded with Odalije’s burial rites as custom demands.

While the basic question after the laying to rest of any deceased is whether the deceased was successfully laid to rest and not as to how wonderful the funeral and other accompanying events were conducted, one may be tempted to say that the burial and Last Ofala of late Odalije neared the world biggest carnival, the Rio de Janeiro Carnival. Call it an exaggerated description, the truth is that the Odalije events were historic and to many, the events were unprecedented. First, it was a burial/funeral ceremony and then the Ofala, but beyond being a burial ceremony, it was a celebration of great achievement, it was a celebration of a life well spent, it was a celebration of a hero, it was a celebration of a saint!

While the death of Odalije has left a big vacuum in the Njeze family and in the entire Umuavulu, Abor community, leaving a very big shoe for his successor-in-throne, the good thing is that during his lifetime, while upholding his principles that the definition of success is ‘successful succession’, Odalije by his exemplary life, nurtured and positively influenced his entire subjects including his children, all extended family, Igwe-in-Council and the possible successor to the throne (although unknown at the moment). On the foregoing premises Odalije further believed that the success of his successor will greatly determine his success; this fact he has always put to the ears of his family while asking them to give maximum support to whoever that will emerge after him.

There is no doubt that Umuavulu Abor shall continue to miss the personality of Odalije, so dearly. But we take solace in the words of Dr. Oliaku Eneh (Ada Ujaligwa), Odalije’s only daughter, who says that “A life lived in fulfilment of one’s purposes on earth is a life well lived to the fullest”. May the soul of Odalije the great rest in perfect peace…Amen

Photo Credit: EmmyGraphy

This Post Has 31 Comments

  1. Dr Ojel Clara Anidi

    Verbatim Reporter! Kudos to our young Justice! Onye agulu afha O na n’ukwe nye!

  2. Dr Ojel Clara Anidi

    I ji ya!

  3. Judy

    Lovely account. A few corrections are needed. Matthew Obodoechi is Ochiagha. Our Yoruba in-laws are the Meffuls

  4. Dr. Ifeanyi Ojobor

    Fantastic! Having his funeral and last Ofala documented means that Odalije continues to live. He was a saintly character in my modest opinion.

  5. Judy Umeukeje

    Please note that Igwe Paul Ogbodo (Achala oma) is not from Ameke Ngwo but from Akama Amankwo Ngwo. Correction needed please.

  6. Judy Umeukeje

    Please note that Igwe Paul Ogbodo (Achala oma) is not from Ameke Ngwo but from Akama Amankwo Ngwo. Correction needed please.

  7. Okpe Agatha

    Detailed report of the one week event. Weldone for a nice work

  8. This blog is definitely rather handy since I’m at the moment creating an internet floral website – although I am only starting out therefore it’s really fairly small, nothing like this site. Can link to a few of the posts here as they are quite. Thanks much. Zoey Olsen

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