The day “Crunches” buried mum…

Orji Ogbonnaya Orji, PhD

All roads led to the ancient kingdom of Arochukwu on Friday November 25th through Saturday the 26th 2016. It was a day that captains of commerce and industry, government bureaucrats, legislators, politicians, the high and the mighty from all parts of Nigeria stormed the ancient town in solidarity with Mazi Jude Nnamdi Nwosu, (Ugwu Aro), the founder, chairman and chief executive of Crunches Fried Chicken Ltd.; a leading fast food services company that offers restaurant and outdoor catering services in major cities across the South East and South- South regions of Nigeria.The event was the burial of his dear mum, Madam Bridget Oyekwe Nwosu.

Madam Nwosu, a member of that generation of mothers that sacrificed every comfort for the sake of their marriage, love of family and children bowed out gracefully at an appreciable age of 87. Jude Nnamdi Nwosu (Ugwu Aro), his brothers and sisters rose to the occasion and honoured their mother and mentor who was of a special class and breed. It was a day that Amuvi, the village of the celebrant and entire Arochukwu will neither forget to remember nor remember to forget. To set the stage for the burial, Jude (Ugwu Aro) did what many so called “big men”in his position would have chosen to ignore giving the excuse that it does not matter. As part of arrangements for the burial of their late matriarch, the Nwosu family decided to first of all honour their late father with a grand second burial that symbolically brought Mazi Nwosu and his ancestors back to Arochukwu, his original ancestry. The second burial was historic and a timely milestone. It is an Aro tradition that offers opportunity for Aro elders buried outside Aro soil due to circumstances beyond the control of the family at the time, to be brought home by their children with dignity. Those who continue to ignore this tradition miss the point.

It is usually a decision that the children can make if they are fully grown, successful in their various professions and vocations and most importantly if they can afford it. We are told that it carries a lot of blessings. Jude and his siblings took this part of honour. The story behind Jude’s late father dates back in history but remains strong in memories of his family. His great son, Jude Nnamdi worked hard, waited patiently for the day he will honour his father with his siblings and make a clear statement. The death of the matriarch of the family (Jude’s mum) provided a good opportunity to honour both parents almost at equal measures for their exemplary life, valued contributions to their upbringing, community and country. The decision was as historic as it was exciting. A double celebration indeed! The day Crunches buried his mum began with the arrival of dignitaries though the road leading to Arochukwu left a sour taste in the mouth. It was an experience which all but a few visitors were willing to share. Many found the condition of the road unbelievable, horrifying and shocking that they lacked words to narrate their varied experiences. Those who travelled through Bende-Okobo axis or Nkana Akwa Ibom direction, were as dumfounded as those who came in through Ohafia – Ihechiowa-Ututu route. The verdict of all were vehement and the same “seeing is believing”. Those of us from Aro laughed in frustration because it is an experience we have lived with for over forty years.

However, the pains of the road disappeared as soon as the visitors landed into the magnificent edifice of a country home of the Crunches chairman. The country home, an imposing duplex with adjoining guest houses and a finishing decoration that speaks eloquently of his rating as a truly successful businessman offered the guests the needed succor after the torture on the road to Arochukwu.

On arrival, invited guests were greeted with chilled and assorted drinks. The infinite Arochukwu hospitality was also freely put at their disposal. The visitors experienced first – hand “Arochukwu di uto”. Rice and stew were also very plenty as the saying goes. The class of visitors equally made a lot of difference on the quality of discussions and exchange of pleasantries. The Nwosu country home was a carnival of some sort with music of all kinds competing for space and attention. The roll call at the wake on Friday was long. It was easier to remember those who did not come than those present.

From Senators Enyinnaya Abaribe, Mao Ohuabunwa, to the two former Abia gubernatorial candidates in the last election who are of Aro origin- Sir Chikwe Udensi and Dr. Alex Otti respectively. The business community in Aba, the Aba Sports Club, Nzuko Aro, Aba branch, and others in the services industry powered the ceremony. This was in addition to Aro elites – the Ikembas and Ugwu Aros who turned up in their numbers. The Ezienyi Club of Arochukwu led by my brother, Austin Orji, the leadership of Nzuko Arochukwu led by the National Vice President, Nwosu Nwaka, the patrons of Nzuko led by Mazi EKO Ivi, women, children and church groups took positions. The musicians that blended the event equally took the burial to its zenith. It was a real celebration of life in its original form and meaning. No one was left in doubt that money was spent.

At St. Thomas Catholic Church Amuvi where the commendation holy mass was held, the presiding priest spoke about life and times of Madam Nwosu with special attention to her sacrifice for the upbringing of her children. The message was loud and clear about how Mrs. Nwosu endured all challenges and stood by her children to build something from little or nothing. “She was a rock, pillar of strength, sincere, dedicated wife, mother and conscience of the entire family” the Priest concluded.

At a time many modern women abandon their roles, spend more time on fashion and life time pleasures resulting in the growing number of failed marriages and failed families, the message by the Priest resonated with the congregation. The Church service over, the congregation moved in large numbers to the Amuvi Primary School field, venue of the reception while the church and close friends, relatives accompanied Jude and his siblings to the Nwosu country home for interment of their dear mum. Jude led his siblings to pay special tribute at the grave side to a mother that gave her all to her children. He watched with tears and deep reflections of the past, the present and the future without their mum as the casket of Madam Bridget Oyekwe Nwosu was lowered. She was laid beside her husband in a mausoleum at the Ogbiti Ugwu Aro. For Jude and the Nwosu family, it marked the end of an era and the beginning of a new one.

While (Ugwu Aro) and siblings explore the future to build on the excellent legacies of their lovely mum, there is every wisdom to take solace in the immortal words of William Shakespeare in Macbeth: “out, out, brief candle! Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage. And then is heard no more. It is tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury signifying nothing.”

About author

Orji Ogbonnaya Orji

Orji Ogbonnaya Orji, a well-known Nigerian broadcaster, journalist, political economist and development communication specialist sits on the Editorial Board of Aro News, a leading community news channel of the Aros, south east Nigeria. Orji writes its popular column “Amaikpe”.  
He is currently the Director of Communications and Advocacy at the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI), the Presidency, Abuja. NEITI is the Nigerian chapter of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), an international organization with 53 member countries which leads the global campaign for transparency and accountability in the management of extractive resources in resource-rich countries around the world. Orji Ogbonnaya Orji was named NEITI's acting Executive Secretary/ceo in 2015, a position he held briefly until 2016.  
Dr. Orji represents NEITI on Nigeria’s National Steering Committee of the global Open Government Partnership (OGP) and chairs the extractive sector thematic group in the country’s OGP.  
Prior to his current job at NEITI, Dr. Orji was a special adviser to Nigeria’s Minister of Information and Communication on Strategic Development Communication. Between 2004 and 2006, he worked with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) as a national consultant on public procurement reforms. At the UNDP, he worked with other development partners such as the World Bank and USAID on institutionalizing public procurement processes in Nigeria, by articulating a bill on public procurement for consideration and passage into law by the National Assembly. Following the passage of the Bill into law and establishment of the Bureau of Public Procurement on the June 4, 2007, Orji headed the media and public affairs department of the Bureau.
He served as Special Adviser to the President of the Senate at the National Assembly from 2000 to 2003. During this period, he provided technical support to develop the institutional framework on strategic media/civil society relations and engagements with the country’s legislature emerging from years of military rule.
His career in the media industry began at Radio Nigeria where he was groomed and worked in various capacities, rising through the ranks to the position of Deputy Director at the headquarters. The highest point of his career at Radio Nigeria was his posting to the Presidential Villa, Aso Rock (Nigeria’s seat of power) as the Chief State-House Correspondent, attached to Nigeria’s presidents. Dr. Orji Ogbonnaya Orji served with courage and distinction during five different regimes, part of which were under the military from 1993 to 2000, when Nigeria returned to civil rule. The job at the Presidential villa took Orji on regular entourages of Nigerian Presidents to many countries of the world for the media-coverage of key global events, including several sessions of the United Nations' General Assembly in New York.
Orji Ogbonnaya Orji began his early life and education in 1970 at the Presbyterian School, Amanator Isu, Ohaozara in the then Afikpo Division. He attended Ishiagu High School Okigwe for his secondary education from 1975 and obtained his West African School Certificate from the school in 1980. He later proceeded to the Institute of Management and Technology (IMT) Enugu where he graduated with a certificate in Mass communication in 1987. Orji Ogbonnaya Orji holds a bachelor’s degree in Political Science from the University of Abuja, Nigeria in 1999, a master’s degree in political economy and development studies in 2004 and a PhD in the same discipline and from the same University in 2012.
He attended the Senior Executive Fellows program on public policy and communication at J.F Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. He is also an alumnus of Blatvanik School of Government, University of Oxford, England, Thompson Foundation Institute of Advanced Media Studies Cardiff, United Kingdom, the International Law Institute, George Town University Washington DC, the Institute for Public and Private Partnership, Arlington Virginia, the World Bank Institute, the African Development Bank Institute, and the Lagos Business School. Furthermore, he is a recipient of professional fellowships from the US State Department and from the governments of Germany and the United Kingdom.
Dr. Orji Ogbonnaya Orji is married to Dr. (Mrs.) Esther Ogbonnaya with three children: Nnenna, Orji (Jr), and Chinatu.

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