Stephen Ukandu, Umuahia
The apex Igbo socio-cultural organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide, has expressed grief over the demise of an illustrious Igbo son, and former Ohanaeze Vice President, Dr Sylvanus Ebigwei, from Okpanam in Delta State.
This is coming few days after the passing on of another illustrious Igbo son, and former Chief Executive Officer, CEO, of the Union Bank, Elder U.K Kalu.
Ohanaeze in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary Dr Alex Ogbonnia described the exit of the former President of Aka Ikenga as a huge loss to the Igbo nation.
The statement made available to Ikengaonline read: “The Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide has received with a rude shock the passing of yet another Igbo Titan, a humanist, erudite scholar, bridge builder, the summary of virtues, a dentist of global renown, community leader, publisher, former President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide and the Iyase of Okpanam, Dr Sylvanus Olisanye Ebigwei, DDP, FMCGDP, PhD, MON.
“Dr Ebigwei served as the President of Aka Ikenga Lagos, an Igbo Think Tank and later as the Vice President General (VPG) under Chief Nnia Nwodo as the President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide. Throughout his tenure as the VPG, Chief Ebigwei’s wise counsel, moral authority, audacity of intellect, dispositional humility and nobility radiance were irresistible and disarming; and at the NEC meetings, Nwodo would cast a look at Ebigwei to solicit his validation at any critical juncture.
“Furthermore, Dr. Ebigwei decried the inanity of double standards, identity crises and ethnic ambivalence that have pervaded the Igbo of the South South extraction of Nigeria. On page 218 of his book: The History of Okpanam People and Culture, Ebigwei stated that the “Delta Ñorth, known as Anioma people are basically Ndi Igbo.” He informed that the word, Anioma is a product of Igbo consciousness; and that the across-the-Niger Igbo held a meeting and adopted the word, Anioma. He explained that Anioma is an acronym derived from the first alphabets of the administrative divisions that comprise the Delta North; namely, “A” for Aniocha, “N” for Ndokwa, “I” for Ika and “O” for Oshimili; and that the prefix MA was added by Chief Dennis Osadebe, the former Premier of the Midwest of Nigeria, to form the word Anioma, meaning the “Beautiful Land.”
“Ebigwei lamented that the likes of Dennis Osadebay, Chief Orewa of Ika, Amadi Emina of Ebu, Col Joe Achuzia, Chief Isa, Chief Dafe, Ambassador Raph Uwechue, Chief Ochonogor, Obi Nosike Ikpo of Ibusa, etc were firm and unequivocal about their Igboness; and would turn in their graves over the recent developments, where a split personality with Igbo name, language and culture would prefer to deny his identity for a genealogical rootlessness, porridge mendacity and chameleon mentality.
“Ebigwei had reminisced with a deep emotional substantiation, the formidable Igbo solidarity that enabled Chief Dennis Osadebey to clinch the position of the Premier of the multi-ethnic Midwest Region in the First Republic and many other feats. Ebigwei regretted that it was “after the civil war in 1970 that many persons from Anioma started to distance themselves from their original ethnic identity….for political survival.”
“Ebigwei was an exemplary Anioma who detested wobbling personalities and remained steadfast to his roots until Friday, November 3, 2023 when he departed to meet his Ancestors.
“The President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide, Chief Engr. Dr. Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, MFR; OFR; CFR; FNICE; FNSE; KSC (Ahaejiagamba) is devastated on hearing the sad news. The Igbo Leader expressed dismay over the close chain of catastrophe; Chief Joel Kroham, Prof George Obiozor, Prof. Joe Irukwu, Prof. Ben Nwabueze, Elder Dr. UK Kalu and now Dr S. O. Ebigwei. Ahaejiagamba remarked with sadness, that a big vacuum is created in Anioma with the loss of Ebigwei.
“Born January 8, 1943, Sylvanus Olisanye Ebigwei attended St Patrick’s College Asaba and left as the best graduating HSC student in 1966. He proceeded to the College of Medicine, University of Lagos where he studied dentistry; Post Graduate Medical College of Nigeria, for a specialist programme; University of Florida, Gainsville, among others. He served as the Chairman, Governing Council, Nnamdi Azikiwe University University Teaching Hospital, Nnewi; Chairman, College of Dental Technology & Therapy, Enugu; Chairman, Post Graduate Medical College of Nigeria; Chairman, African Chess Federation; amongst others.
“Chief Iwuanyanwu sends his condolences to the wife, children and the immediate family, the traditional ruler and the Okpamam Community and the good people of Anioma over this irreparable loss. He takes solace in the fact that Dr. Ebigwei was accomplished in several fields and passed on a fulfilled man.While we urge the Anioma to accept with serenity the inevitable reality for all mortals, we request the Almighty to grant the soul of Dr. S O Ebigwei an eternal rest in his bosom.”
Ohanaeze had in a separate statement described the exit of Kalu as another blow to Ndigbo.
The statement said Ohanaeze received with a rude shock the news of the passing on of “yet another Igbo Titan; a pathfinder, visionary, erudite scholar, boardroom guru, financial consultant, former chairman of Union Bank Plc and a highly endowed chieftain of Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide, Elder Dr. U. K. Kalu, CON (the Ekwueme of Ohafia), at 88.”
Ohanaeze recounted the “countless interventions of Elder Dr Kalu at various critical junctures, with wise counsel, in the affairs of Ohanaeze Ndigbo in particular and the Igbo in general.”
Ohanaeze reminisced on Kalu’s calm, thoughtful, cerebral mien and candour, his articulate and yet ineluctable eloquence and more importantly his dispositions for peace and sacrifice for the Igbo nation.
It read: “The Ohafia Igbo extraction has not only recorded exploits in commerce and industry; it is also home to the famous Igbo war dance and several cerebral moderate, Marxist and stubborn intellectuals. Elder U K Kalu ranks high amongst the Ohafia intelligentisia, who have made their marks in Nigerian and world affairs. Others in his mold include Dr. Kalu Ezera, Prof. Eni Njoku (once described by Tai Solarin as the most intelligent man in Africa), Dr. Uma Eleazu, Professor Eme Awa, Dr. Kalu Idika Kalu, Justice Agwu Anya, Chief Okwara Osonwa, Prof. U. U. Uche, Rt Hon. Ojo Maduekwe, Rev. Uma Ukpai, e.t.c.”
The statement further read: “He was born Kalu, Uke Kalu on February 22, 1935 at Isiugwu, Ohafia, Abia State. He attended the Duke Town Secondary School, Calabar; Hope Waddell Training Institute, Calabar; and Kings College, the University of Durham, Newcastle. Kalu served in different capacities as a Lecturer and Acting Head, Department of Finance, Faculty of Business Administration, University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN); Acting Head, Department of Accountancy, Faculty of Business Administration (UNN). In the Banking and Finance Industry, Kalu served as a Director, African Continental Bank Limited; Director, Development Finance & Investment Co. Limited, Imo State; Chairman, Financo Insurance Brokers Company, Imo State; Director, Magnum Trust Bank Limited; Chairman, Board of Directors, Union Bank of Nigeria; amongst several others. He was decorated with the robe of the Elder, Presbyterian Church of Nigeria.”