How else could life be celebrated for a man of many parts at the age of 55 years? Where and how do we salute a man of the people; a culture exponent; poet, novelist, community leader and philanthropist in the mold of Chief Ngozi Onyegbule as he soldiers on with life?
In realization of these and many more, all roads therefore led to the Salaam Shrine Centre, 369 East Mt. Pleasant Avenue, Livingston, New Jersey, USA on November 7, 2009, as the entire Nigerian community in the whole of New England states, New York, New Jersey, Washington DC and other parts of the United States gathered to celebrate and felicitate with a humble man, Chief Ngozi Onyegbule as he marked his glorious 55th birthday in style.
That occasion was the very first time I was meeting this great man of humility. I had been invited by my erstwhile school mate and friend Mr. Ikechukwu Nwangwu who lives in Bridgeport. Iyke, an in-law to Chief Onyegbule had driven down from Bridgeport to Providence to pick me up from my abode at Brown University, on the night of 6th November, 2009 for this event.
Meeting Chief Onyegbule was a great pleasure as the man radiates simplicity and friendliness of the highest order. He smiles and mingles freely with everybody, interacting with all as if they have been friends long ago. I was therefore not surprised that the event was such a huge success with a massive turn yet unprecedented in many similar events I have attended in both England and the whole of North America combined.
According to records made available at the event, Chief Ngozi Onyegbule was born on November 4, 1954 at the Holy Rosary Maternity, Nguru, Mbaise Imo State and is the first child of Late Chief Ignatius Onukwufor and Lolo Christiana Nmasinachi Onyegbule of Ogbe Nneissi in Nguru Mbaise.
Life for Chief Ngozi Onyegbule in the United States of America began like those of many new arrivals. On arrival in the USA in the mid-eighties Chief Onyegbule did all sorts of jobs to survive and meander the turbulent terrain of a new environment. Some of these included the opportunities of an arduous work life of working twenty hours a week as admission aid in the admissions office of the Montclair State College, as well as those of working as a porter, cleaner, security officer and door man at various periods.
To some haughty fellows, these jobs could be dismissed as menial but to Ngozi, they mattered and he took pride in them regardless of whatever; his work ethic therefore earned him in the jobs a plethora of commendations, and this as at today have greatly and positively influenced his great life to what it has become today. The major dividend was that on June 15, 1992, he was employed by the superior court of New Jersey as a probation officer, and through the system he has risen to become and hold the title of senior intake probation officer and criminal justice counselor in the court.
As a community leader, Ngozi has since 1970, maintained a positive stance in civic and community service, this started right from his days in Nigeria where he served as secretary of the voice of angles block rosary in his town. This also continued even while in secondary school and colleges in Nigeria and has continued even in the USA where he held and has continued to hold various positions of responsibility.
Chief Onyegbule was in 1990 elected the first social and publicity secretary of Abia and Imo State Association in North America (AISANA). At various times he has been elected the first elected director to moderate Imo Day in the USA, and in 1995 was elected the sixth president of the Mbaise Association of New Jersey. Also, he has also served as the Vice President and Social of the organization, and has also served as social director of the Ahiara Umunna organization and currently the first elected president of the Ogbe Nneissi Development Union in the USA. He is an active and founding member of the Umuihi Development Organization, Inc. Other positions in the USA include his election as a member of the probation association of New Jersey; and the international society of poets, Washington, DC, USA.
As a philanthropist, Ngozi is ever willing to put smile on the face of the deprived or suffering. In doing this, he feels happy when he lends a helping hand to fellow human beings irrespective of their places of birth, creed or religion. Many guests at the birthday party gave flowing testimonies to support and encourage the celebrant to continue in his good works. He has established education scholarship program for twelve students in his home town and has never relented to show compassion and service to others. He has a philosophy of deriving happiness by going an extra mile for others.
As a culture exponent, he is an advocate of family unity and African culture. He believes that his people in diaspora should instill in their children family values, tradition and culture. He has always urged families to send their children to Nigeria for “International Community Service”; a positive way to make the children in diaspora to know their routes and relatives, learn and speak their language, know the ethics of responsible behavior, enhance their inter personal skills and embrace their culture and tradition. He has always insisted that this is “a clarion call and task that must be achieved if abroad based parents are not to lose their heritage”.
As a poet and novelist, Chief Onyegbule has written four books, namely, Never to love Again; The Golden Master Pieces,; The grieving mind; Love forgives all sins as well as many other publications in Igbo journals and other Nigerian journals in the USA. Some of his poems are published on www.poetry.com. In doing all these Chief Onyegbule has received numerous awards including two poetry awards from the international society of poets, five awards from AISANA, and two awards from the Mbaise Association of New Jersey.
In congratulating this leader of men and community in New Jersey, USA, I cannot omit his amiable wife Ebere. Both Chief Ngozi Onyegbule and his wife Ebere has been married since 1988 and the marriage is blessed with five children, Nnedimma, Ozioma, Onochie, Ezinne and Chimaobi, all of whom are doing well in their own rights. May God bless this lovely family and preserve Chief Ngozi Onyegbule till we meet again on his next open birthday as already schedule. Happy Birthday Chief!