Obviously this is a Xmas with a difference for Aro News Newspaper. It is not something that calls for cerebration but mourning, especially for the pioneers that closely associated with the duo whose sacrifices earned us the enviable brand. The demise of these two great sons of the kingdom that played significant roles in our early beginnings, and who shall be buried this season, provide sufficient cause for the bleak celebrations.
Elder Jonathan Nwagba Oji, the notable educationist that touched lives in many homes in Arochukwu, was a regular contributor of stories, indeed a columnist, and his major articles were published in our book series. Mazi Sinclair Ogbonnia was a foremost marketer and was solely in-charge of the Lagos market for our publications. Due to his excellent performance, he was amongst the few that were honored with the long service award during our 10thyear anniversary celebrations in 2006.
As a mark of respect therefore, my column is dedicated to the twosome to honor them. One, a written word remains a testimonial which is indelible for life. Two, is to credit them for their great sacrifices for the cause of enlightenment and community development. The entire page is also black to signify the mournful mood consistent with the tradition in journalism where major calamities attract similar treatment as a mark of respect. In this wise, their sacrifices for the cause of knowledge and mass communication shall not be in vain.
Late Mazi JN Oji, as he was popularly known, was a regular contributor and his several articles earned the culture and civilization’s section of the foremost community tabloid fame amongst readers globally. He wrote extensively on the history and origin of some Arochukwu villages, marriage ceremonies and the beginning of Christianity in Arochukwu kingdom. A notable teacher and school administrator cum manager of men, Mazi Oji who was equally very cerebral was part of the initial sustaining force that gave Aro News its household name as the primary tabloid of the ancient kingdom. After reading some of his seminal articles, some people such as the ex-Union Bank boss, Mazi Gibson Ihe called for the preservation of the rich historical articles which eventually led to the creation of Aro News Book Series. The series currently has three titles – Perspectives on Aro History & Civilization: the Splendor of a Great Past Vols. 1, 2 and 3 and Mazi Oji’s articles featured in some of the volumes.
No doubt, being a foremost educationist, Mazi Oji knew the kind of role such works will play in the education of the younger generation who now rely on the texts to navigate some grey areas of Aro history. Beyond that, the late Mazi Jonathan Oji joined forces in working assiduously for the institutionalization of Aro News, so it is to his credit that the community quarterly celebrated 20th year anniversary last year. All through his retirement years, he looked forward to successive editions of Aro News and in January 2018, he gladly hosted me when I took copies of the 20th anniversary souvenirs, including the calendar, to his residence. As ever, he discussed some of his past books and the last one he was working on and promised not to leave any stone unturned for the cause of enlightenment and education.
Ever since he retired in January 1990 as a teacher from public service, he devoted himself to intellectual works. A very prolific writer, some of his published and unpublished works include Dawn of a New Era, Let there be light, Journey of my earthly life, Happy home, The teacher, The path to greatness and A book of great wisdom. He also had journals to his credit such as the genealogy of Oji Nwigwe family of Amuvi, Arochukwu, the path to greatness, the genealogy of Oyielihe and the genealogy of Okoro-Avigbo kindred.
His community services spanned years and touched various levels of authority such as his immediate family of Okoro-Avigbo, where he served as secretary-general and president -general for thirty four (34) years and Amuvi Welfare Union for twenty-seven years. His services to the Presbyterian Church of Nigeria are too numerous to be counted while in Arochukwu kingdom he was a member of Eze Aro cabinet Advisory Council for years, secretary to Eze Aro cabinet committee that looked into Agbagwu chieftaincy tussle, secretary to Eze Aro cabinet committee that looked into land case between Atani and Isimpku, served as Arochukwu cabinet Education committee, was the treasurer for Arochukwu home branch for five years during the building of Arochukwu local government and headed two premier secondary school in Aro namely: Mary Slessor Technical Secondary school from 1981-89 and Aggrey memorial secondary school from 1981-89. This is apart from serving as Speaker of Arochukwu Local Government Legislature when he ventured into politics.
The news about the death of Mazi Sinclair Ogbonnia was sudden. It came via a phone call and because no one ever mentioned he was sick, shocking. Momentarily, I was stunned, not because death does not occur; but because of the natural resentment one feels whenever a close relation departs to eternity. The mystery of death dominated my thoughts for a while and I made few calls and the news was real. The passing on of the handsome, frank, outspoken, amiable, urbane and courageous Mazi Sinclair Ogbonnia (Sinco babe) once more confronted me with the reality that death is a price which every mortal owes. Alas, as the saying goes, ‘nothing can be more real than reality’.
Through his hard work, the Aro News Newspaper and book series became popular amongst readers. Apart from his being a pioneer marketer and award recipient during our tenth year anniversary, Mazi Sinclair was the face of the publication at various places. Several times when, arising from his complaints about debtors and we discussed strategies for improving sales, he always admired my insight when I advise that any copy debtors fail to pay for shall not be a total loss as such copies shall be sources of advertisement that shall attract subsequent patronage. And when the Arochukwu kingdom found my services to the community worthy to earn me a recognition and the award of Ikemba Arochukwu was scheduled in 2009, it was the same Mazi Sinclair Ogbonnia who stood on the platform and received the honor on my behalf as I was away on doctoral studies in the United States at the time.
Mazi, with your passing on, death has snatched from us an unassuming, polite, frank, courageous, and God fearing gentleman. We are sad because of the vacuum created by your absence but happy because the Almighty allows events to occur in the fullness of their times. You were bold to a fault and gave your time to things that pertained to the welfare of family members and beyond. You excelled in your public sector career and retired meritoriously into private business. You left excellent records that continued to speak volumes about your integrity even years after your retirement such that at the Nigerian Ports Authority, you were always sought after for little jobs that kept you in retirement with dignity.
Your hearty and charming smiles and loud conversation, elegant and fashionable dressing and quick pace remained distinct traits that distinguished your personality. Indeed, Mazi, you loved good life exceptionally, courted the thrills it brought such that no one close to you was in doubt that you lived happily. Sinco babe, was a name I used to call you most times. You cared, loved and did all within your capacity to assist relations and others. Courage, boldness and integrity remained your finest qualities.
Finally, our dear colleagues in community service, you lived your lives essentially according to your faith in God and the things you loved. In every sense of the word, you were accomplished and cultivated gentlemen. Your modesty was disarming and your comportment and integrity impeccable. You completely paid your dues and left golden footprints on the sands of time. Whenever the story of Aro News shall be told, your names shall feature prominently for your special roles in its history. As I mentioned to the Chair, Board of Directors, Mazi Emma Kanu Ivi, FCA, but for the kind of roles two of you played, particularly at the early years of our existence, the 20th anniversary we celebrated earlier this year would not have been possible.
We therefore, credit you for unalloyed commitment to the cause of a greater posterity in Arochukwu kingdom. As you depart, we shall take solace in the unfailing love of the God that does not change. May He grant your souls eternal repose, console your immediate families, relations, Amuvi, Arochukwu and the rest of humanity whom your enviable services touched. You shall be dearly missed by former and current associates and staff of the publishing house, especially for your honesty and diligent services. Indeed, we mourn the loss of two great friends of the house. Adieu.