THE GREAT IROKO JOURNEY’S FORTH By Pat Utomi Do you see an iroko, not just an iroko but an iroko of Irokos, king of...

By Pat Utomi

imagesDo you see an iroko, not just an iroko but an iroko of Irokos, king of trees rising with its fonts to the tree top levels and doing a jig, a display of the Ulaga dance as the jungle falls silent and Atilogu dancers are flat footed as they watch the Ulaga dance. The great tree whose fall will shake the forest has set flight with the eagles perched on it. The great one was in transition; the big Iroko had embarked on the journey across seven mountains and seven seas to land of his ancestors to join the ages. The immortality of Professor Chinualumogu Achebe long assured, took new meaning as his breather separated from his mortal frame last Thursday.

Three scores plus ten was promised to the normal and ten more for the strong. The great Iroko got the quota for the strong and more, yet he was desired around for longer for the work of noble spirit, of integrity and of courage to voice truth to power was still in high demand.

Now I know it is great privilege that I gave the lecture introducing the lecturer the very last time ‘Ugo nabo’ spoke from the lectern in Nigeria at that nostalgia generating Ahajoku lecture in Owerri. How I remember calling your attention to the collapse of culture in our land and how as victim to the tyranny of drivers’ my unsolicited favorite piece of music from my driver’s preferred radio station was ‘osina nwata bulu ogalanya’ Not much has changed from that time, which is why many wished you were around a little longer to help with the redemption change. But you can lead change from yonder. Afterall Bob Marley’s redemption song continues to set the change for many. How it seems like yesterday, the harmattan winds of 1973/1974 at Nsukka when I watched you almost every morning pack your car by the Ansah building as I walked to my department at Nsukka. It was an American car, I recall, maybe a mercury Monarch. The simplicity of greatness as you came out in short sleeves, so forceful. Who knows if that did not play a role in my unquenched desire for the simple life? The simplicity did not keep us from knowing we were saying good morning routinely to a living legend, the master story teller who let the world know who we were.

Beyond the story you were a soldier, a Buffalo soldier, fighting for our liberation from the bondage of bad leadership. The trouble with Nigeria, you wrote is leadership. Inspired by those words I founded a Centre for Values in Leadership to help young people understand leadership and prepare themselves to be effective in leadership roles.

You have not left us orphans, Even if we feel awed by the challenge. When you wrote Things fall apart we were but toddlers but our country held promise that the contradictions in Things Fall Apart were yielding into a synthesis of forward movement hoped for. But the centre has not managed to hold and things are falling apart such that many say there was a country. But we are a people of hope and trust in the benefits of raising the spirit of iconic souls to the stars and drawing strength from there to reach the stars. So we send your spirit up to the heavenlies on errand for the cause of those for whose sake you stood up your whole adult life in pursuit of justice, integrity in service and generosity in human solidarity.

May your journey into the ages be blessed.

Patrick Okedinachi Utomi
Professor of Political Economy and
Entrepreneurship is founder of the Centre for values in leadership.