While ruminating over the demise of the ever calm and gentle Mazi Joshua Ogbonnia, I quickly recalled the words of a 20th century theologian that ‘the essence of Christianity is not an idea but a person’ which is abundantly true, and remains so until today. This is particularly because it is in a person that we discover the ‘richness’ of what Christianity is all about.
These thoughts vividly resonated in my mind as his characteristic demeanor and the gentility that distinguished him from many folks flashed though my brain when the news came. I placed a call instantly to Mazi Chidube Ogbonnia for confirmation, and was saddened because I missed an opportunity to see him while on a burial trip to Arochukwu a short while before the news broke. Our last conversation was on telephone while he was outside the town, at the son’s abode, so I never knew he was back to the village.
A devout Christian, he meritoriously served the nation and retired, and continued with services to his community and various groups, including the media, Church, etc. I can easily recall his usual calm and calculated mien and the cultured mannerism that was his trade mark. Accordingly, and quite expectedly, his exit has thrown the immediate family, relations, friends and entire community into a moment of sadness. We are sad but not unmindful of the fact that time and season are for God to determine, and only Him knows what constitutes the ‘fullness of time’. I had a robust relationship with Mazi Joshua Ogbonnia and a long-standing, close interaction with him since 1996, when I founded Aro News Newspaper. Mazi deserves a special credit for the role he played during the formative years of the medium. Aside from his usual encouragement which was a strong sustaining factor to me, he eventually joined our editorial team and became a regular columnist.
Aro News celebrated 20th anniversary two years ago, and is now a brand and an institution comprising of Aro News Newspaper, Aro Newsonline and Aro News Book Series with three titles: Perspectives on Aro History and Civilization: The Splendor of a Great Past, Vols. 1, 2 & 3. Mazi Joshua’s colunm (‘Issues’) and his various articles were published in Volume 3 which is avilable in Amazon, Barns & Nobles and other online book stores. His published articles include: Man Passes On, He Never Dies, Are Aro Christians in Chains?, The Ikeji ’03 Imbroglio – A Rejoinder, Righteousness – The Key To All Lasting Prosperity and The gods Take Sides. To give us a little glimpse of his deep intellectual prowess and his commitment to biblical values, I will quote briefly from the first article he sent to me as founder/publisher and pioneer editor in-chief of Aro News: “At the demise of Great Zik of African in 1986, a national daily carried the stultifying headline: “Zik Passes On”. Death had not been so reported before. People were known to have passed away, not passes on’. Some of us therefore wondered what had happened with this great statesman.
In our childhood days he was more of myth than a human being. Many incredible stories were told or sung of his adventures with white men who were themselves greatly revered.” What could he be up to now in his old age,” many wondered in unbelief. Being the gullible imitators that we are, Zik’s style of death became a common way of dying. No one ever died, everyone passed on. And today, people do not just pass on they make a ‘glorious exit’. Even well known idol worshippers, too, are ‘called to glory’. But no one has told us to what glory their dead are called – the glory of glory or to their self-conceived glory.” It’s instructive that Mazi Joshua’s first piece was devotedly to issues about death and how people were changing the culture of the rites of passage, which I found fitting to stand as a credit to his sterling values as we mourn his painful loss.
Obviously, his demise, as we can see from our joint efforts at serving Arochukwu kingdom via community newspapering above, is a personal loss to me. I can also imagine how poorer his demise has left someone like Daa Selina Merechi Ogbonnia, as my subsequent trips to Chicago won’t witness a parcel from her to ‘Bro Joshua’. I hesitated calling her after getting the news, and when I eventually did, it was a tough battle stopping her from weeping. I can testify that Mazi was a good man with a good heart. He was calm and calculated. He was forthright and forward looking, bold but soft spoken. Indeed, he believed in God’s given ability to live a quintessential simple life.
As we mourn his painful loss, we shall take solace in the fact that he creditably acquitted himself and left indelible footprints on the sands of time. May God grant his gentle soul a space in paradise. The late Joshua Okoronkwo Ogbonnia was the second of four children and was born on 16th of October 1939 to Late Mazi Robert Nwokoromgboro-Esi Ogbonnia, a scion of Ogbonnia Okoronkwo Akuobu (OgudoOgbuo) OkerekeIje-ukwu, Okoronkwo Ota and Madam Christiana Udeaku Ogbonnia; all of Ndi Okoroavigbo, Amuvi, Arochukwu. The untimely death of his father in 1953 created untold hardships and immeasurable setbacks for his family. His education was almost truncated if not for his late senior cousin, Major LOSK Ogbonnia who prepared him via the prestigious Adventist High School, Ihie having successfully passed his entrance examinations. This project was almost aborted following the sudden death of Major Ogbonnia in 1963 in a motor accident in the United Kingdom, two weeks after he completed his promotion course to the rank of Lt Col at Sandhurst.
After successfully passing his Cambridge examination, Joshua proceeded to work as a secretary with the British Insurance Company. Subsequently, he opted for Advanced Teachers Training College (ATTC), Owerri and obtained the National Certificate in Education (NCE) in Chemistry/Biology. Thereafter, he was employed by the East Central State Secondary Education Management Board as a senior science teacher, and later proceeded to the University of Ibadan for Bachelor of Science Degree in Botany and Zoology and Guidance and Counseling (a combined honours) Education degree course. In 1985, J. O. Ogbonnia was made a Vice Principal under Rev M. D. Okoro at Ututu-Ihe High School, by 1988, he was posted back to Isuikwuato as the Principal of Ovim Secondary Technical School. Joshua served as a Principal for a period of five years at Ovim before he was sent on transfer to Comprehensive Secondary School Okoko Item. He retired under the Deputy Director and Principal rank.
His marriage to the then Miss Promise Nnennia Ijomah of Ndi Okorokpong of Atani, Arochukwu was in 1975 and they were blessed with four children. He was a wonderful family man with strength of character and philosophies. However, he took very seriously his responsibilities both to his nuclear and extended families. A devoted Christian even unto death, he professed Christ in all his dealings with people throughout his earthly journey. Joshua dedicated his entire life to God despite his professional hassles. He was an Elder of The Apostolic Church which enabled him to work under different Pastors and parishes. He is survived by his lovely wife, Mrs. P. N. Ogbonnia, two sons; Dr. Ben J. Robert (Second), Mr. Daniel J. Robert (Fourth), two daughters; Mrs. Betty C. Nworgu (First), Mrs. Pricilla O. Uzochukwu (Third), two daughters-in-law; Mrs. Gloria A. Robert, Mrs. Chioma Dan Robert, two sons-in-law; Mr. Blessing Nworgu, Mr. Uzochukwu J. Inyama, grandchildren, numerous relations and a host of friends.