Stephen Ukandu, Umuahia
It was a harvest of tributes Friday at the International Conference Centre Umuahia during the Commendation service held in honour of a former President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide, Professor Joe Irukwu.
Eminent Igbo sons and daughters, associates and family members, gathered in their numbers to witness the colorful event ahead of his interment Saturday at his Item country home.
Professor Irukwu, former President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, died on July 7, 2023, at the age of 89 years.
President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, described the late Irukwu as a great son of Igboland who had made tremendous contribution for the development of Ala Igbo.
The late Professor Irukwu, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, was Nigeria’s first Professor of Insurance.
He made great contributions for the teaching and development of Insurance in the country.
Chief Iwuanyanwu who led a delegation of Ohanaeze to the Commendation service, conferred on Irukwu a posthumous award of Igbo Hero.
The Ohanaeze PG said that the immense contributions of Professor Irukwu for the development of Igboland would forever be remembered.
Speaking on behalf of Abia Council of Elders, former Chairman of Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, Chief Onyema Ugochukwu, who said he had worked closely with the late Irukwu for over 50 decades, described him as an Insurance guru who revolutionalised the insurance industry.
He said that Irukwu sacrificed so much to move Igboland and Nigeria forward.
Chief Ugochukwu noted the instrumentality of the late Professor Irukwu in the formation of Abia Elders Council.
In a tribute, a member of Imeobi Ohanaeze, and the 2023 governorship candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, Professor Greg Ibe, said Irukwu’s contribution for the development of Igboland were immeasurable.
Professor Ibe expressed grief over the loss of “irreplaceable Igbo sons” such as Col Joe Achuzie aka “Air Raid;” Chief Mbazulike Amaechi; former Ohanaeze PG, Prof George Obiozor; among others.
“And now Ala Item Okpi is set to accommodate the body of another great Iroko of Ndigbo in particular and the Nigerian nation in general,” he lamented.
Continuing he said: “Irukwu represents the highest quality of humanity in every respect. While on this side of eternity he set unbreakable records in professional practice as a legal luminary and insurance mogul par excellence.”
“He bequeathed many lasting legacies during his memorable historic tenure as President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide.”
He urged governments at all levels to immortalise the legacies of Pa Irukwu by naming a strategic landmark project after him.
In his remark, Gov. Alex Otti, represented by the Secretary to State Government, Professor Kenneth Kalu, said Irukwu was a hero whose legendary impacts were indelible.
He described his demise as a huge loss to the state and humanity, and prayed God to give the family the fortitude to bear the loss.
Gov. Otti also urged the family of uphold the good legacies of their late father.
In a sermon entitled “Good name is better than Wealth,” the Co-chair of Interfaith Dialogue Forum, Bishop Sunday Onuoha, urged people to strive to bequeath good name as a legacy to their children.
Describing Professor Irukwu as a man of integrity, the cleric said “he made a name, kept a name and left behind a name.”
In a tribute, the President General of Item Development Association, Chief Sam Onwuka Orji, said the late Irukwu believed in faith in God and service to humanity.
He said he had left behind great legacies, describing him as one of the greatest sons of Item who brought much honour and great respect to the community.
Some of the dignitaries at the service were the Secretary General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Dr Okey Emuchay; former Minister for Solid Minerals and Steel Development, Dr Uche Ogah; former World Bank official, Arunma Oteh; Vice Chairman of Ohanaeze, Dr Kingsley Dozie, among a host of others.