NINE YEARS AGO — Until this day (Feb. 12) of 2009, there was a man I believed would be the equivalent of Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt and Barack Obama rolled up in one. He and I had only recently then celebrated Obama’s inauguration over beer and “nkwobi” on Anglican Road, Nsukka. Part of the conversation that day in late January dwelt on three or four books he had written: he was urging me to get to work with editing the manuscripts.
I returned to Nigeria’s capital city and we continued on the phone — every day — for we had been friends from childhood. And he was my trusted ally, business partner, political mentor, adviser-in-chief; he was a master strategist in the game of life, business and politics. He was my alter ego — one not moved by money or what it could buy. A friend in need — he was untainted by the ills of Nigeria, creative, natural, honest. Such a friend is scarcer than diamond these days.
On Feb. 9, I received a phone call from another friend telling me that he was being taken to Enugu from Nsukka in an ambulance. I called his line; it was ringing. Then I called another number, his sister’s, and she gave him the phone while they were still in the ambulance. He told me what had happened: a fire accident…
Mr Fidelis Oguejiofor Ozota (born in August 1961 like Obama) had fought off a huge fire sparked by ethanol that leaked on a working generating set. By so doing, he saved perhaps hundreds of lives in the crowded Ogige Market, three or four motor parks, residential houses and hundreds of street shops in the university town of Nsukka, Enugu State, Nigeria.
He received first-degree burns and was rushed from Bishop Shanahan Hospital to the National Orthopaedic Hospital in Enugu, 65km away. On the phone, he was giving me almost-hourly accounts of progress with medications. Both of us were unaware of the degree of danger around, so we even laughed when he told me they dressed him exactly like Lazarus [Jesus’ friend that he raised up from the dead] as illustrated in the children’s Bible.
About 7:13am on Feb. 12, 2009 (a Thursday), just 15 hours after I had landed in Enugu from Abuja and met him in the orthopaedic hospital, a phone call from his sister left me half-dead. [Fidel had requested her to call me about 2am but she refused.] It was that minute that he kissed us goodbye after the last struggle with pains.
The world came crashing down on me. My faith fractured. My humanity was debased. All around me turned doom and gloom. Until then, I didn’t know that any tragedy could befall anyone and at any time. I turned a coward, a fool, a cynic, a pauper, a paper, a recluse, a lonely creature left in the dark — thirsty, hungry but unable to eat.
Could such a thing happen?
The story of this man who gave up his life in defence of many will be told in a future book. Sooner than later, too, his books will be published. Then, the world would understand the stature of this creature God had planted on the Nigerian soil. Politicians would remember him as the first chairman of APGA in Enugu State — together with Ugo Agballa and other chieftains, he led the party to victory in the 2003 governorship contest; never mind the rigging.
After the funerals — I couldn’t have been present during the burial, of course — I wrote a piece entitled “Ozota: The Last Sacrifice”. [One can google it and get good results, especially at allafrica.com.] It was published in LEADERSHIP, March 1, 2009, and later in Enugu-based Starlite newspaper.
Fidel left behind both parents, a wife, five kids and a foetus (which is now growing into a handsome look-alike son), siblings and numerous friends. Other friends like Dentist Aik Mba of Aku, Ugo Agballa of Udi, Christian of Opi and Uzor of Edem-Ani have felt the way I have: like a fish thrown out of water, like an orphan, like a cripple.
Lejja town lost a star. We lost a gem. We lost an icon. We lost a progressive mind. We lost a great thinker.
But Nigeria has lost more. And so has the whole wide world.
UPDATE: With the way good people have been going, it seems to me the RAPTURE, which the Bible talks about, has already begun. Remember: the Bible uses figurative language — the reason the Jews couldn’t recognise that Jesus was the Christ when he came. Everything the Holy Book foretells about the end-times (including the building of the Temple in Jerusalem — America has just recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital) has happened. Have we really recognised the mark of the beast (666)? Maybe we should stop mourning loved ones. How many years is the RAPTURE supposed to last? Three and a half years? A millennium? “My ways are not your ways, and My methods are not your methods…”
— By Aniebo Nwamu