Thursday, October 23, 2014

A Life of Service: A mini-biography of my late father, John Asiegbu Ezeokoye

My father passed away on the 6th of August. He went into coma, after 1 week of being admitted with stroke. Despite all the efforts to revive him, he didn't make it. His wake keeping was held on 2nd October 2014, at Oke-Odo, Alimosho Lagos, his community of residence. While the burial ceremony held on October 15th at my hometown, Aguluezechukwu, Aguata Anambra state.
It's really painful burying my father at 26, especially when he's aged only 61. I see his influence in many things I do and I wish he stayed longer and saw his future grandchildren before passing.
The composition below was done by me, based on personal discussions with my father, experiences of living with him and words I've heard from other people. It was recited by my elder brother, Francis Ezeokoye, at his funeral.


John Asiegbu Ezeokoye (DE-JOHN) has passed on. A gem in the eyes of many and a foundation for many successes. In his not-so-short life, he affected a lot of people in several ways and the result of his impact will last for a very long time.

Born in AguluezeChukwu in June 1953 to Nkwonwe Eze-okoye and Antonia Eze-okoye, as the fourth of eight children, and the third son out of seven boys. He was a bright young boy who, in his own words “was always available to help out with chores whenever required”. He was baptised into the Catholic faith at his hometown, 7 months after his birth. In 1963, he received his first holy communion. The following year, he received the sacrament of confirmation.

After losing his eldest Brother Marcel at the Biafra war, and having lost his father earlier, his education had to be cut short after standard 6. After the war, he joined his immediate elder brother Late Dennis Ezeokoye (Nzedile) in Lagos to learn a trade, help elevate the living standards of the family and provide support for the education of his younger siblings.

With hard work and doggedness, he put in his all into his apprenticeship, doing several task at different times, in order to find a perfect fit for his personality and to diversify his income stream. He usually said that, at a point in his life, he was serving 3 masters at the same time and was delivering at all fronts, stretching himself beyond his comfort zone. In the end it all paid off and he made a consistent stream of income as a young man, operating under the business name “DE-JOHN”.

At the peak of his business success, he ran businesses ranging from sales of electrical & electronics materials to plumbing materials, and a small restaurant chain. His businesses were spread across different parts Lagos; from Oshodi to Ojo, from Idumota to Iyana-Ipaja. In all these places, he brought in apprentices to assist in running the business. At its peak, there were 7 shops and 12 boys learning trade under him.

John never joked with education. Being himself a collector of books and magazines, he had a personal library where he stocked popular novels written by popular authors during his days. These novels were going to whet the reading culture which he imbibed in his children in the future. He also ensured that every apprentice he brought in completed primary school at his supervision, if they hadn’t before he took them, to enable them manage his shops better. At the graduation ceremony of his younger brother Ernest’s set at Aguata Boys High school, he offered clothing materials to the best set of graduating students in order to encourage them to pursue their education further.

John was a family man to the core, sacrificing personal comfort most times, for the growth of his family. He contributed immensely to the education of his younger siblings. When required, he offered his siblings key positions at his business, in order to cushion the rigour of them having to build their businesses in the tedious manner he went through building his. After his younger Brother, Dr Ernest Ezeokoye, finished his housemanship and was ready to run his medical centre, he was one of the foundation instrumental to the setting-up of Esteem Medical clinics, which has helped saved life over the years.

The year 1984 was a bittersweet year in the life of John. It was in this year that he completed the completed the traditional marriage ceremony for his heartthrob, Miss Roselyn Nkechi Ezeilo. It was also in this year that he raised his decked building in AguluezeChukwu, despite losing the original architectural plan of the house. Unfortunately, he had to stop the project half-way due to some issues in his business.

In the following year, he wedded his sweetheart, taking the vows of holy Matrimony at St John’s Catholic Church Oshodi and a new chapter began in his life. He went on to father four sons: Chukwunonso Francis Ezeokoye, Chukwubuike Celestine Ezeokoye, Obumneme Anthony Ezeokoye and Chima Emmanuel Ezeokoye.

To his sons, he was an available father. Being there to sing poems, tell bedtime stories and help with basic arithmetic, when they were kids. He was also a strict disciplinarian, never failing to discipline his sons when they veered off the right path. Despite the collapse of his business post-marriage, he ensured that he imbued in them tenets that would be instrumental to their growth as useful citizens. He often promised to ensure that they are educated to any degree they desire. Unlike the prevalent nature of fathers, he also tried not to force them to pursue any discipline just because he wants it. Instead he gave his children the freewill to make their choices, trusting God that their upbringing would direct them in the right path. He lived long enough to witness all his sons acquire Bachelor’s degrees at some of the best Federal Universities in the country. They were trained as mechanical engineer, computer scientist, architect and biotechnologist respectively.

To his wife, he was a backbone and moral support. Even though, like every human, he erred once in a while, he always ensured he settled any differences they had in due time. He never drove her out nor considered leaving the marriage when they had misunderstandings, instead he showed love and brought an aura of peace into the marriage. He supported her business drives and in return, she supported the growth of the family where required. He created an environment where both were shareholders in family growth and proper upbringing of the children.

In his later years, he was actively involved in the building of a new catholic community at Oke-Odo, Alimosho Lagos, being his area of residence. He was an active member of the Catholic Men Organisation (CMO) at his community at St. Christopher’s Catholic Church and volunteered for causes which The Church needed services for, both in cash and in kind. He enjoyed the company of friends in the community, where he was respected as an elder and he never fails to lead by example wherever needed.

Dear John, you were a husband, father, brother, uncle and friend to many, before death plucked you from our midst. Even though we are saddened by losing you, we take solace in the Word of God which says:

“I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live even if he dies” – John 11:25

And we believe that you are living and resting at the bosom of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.