By Joachim Ezeji
In February 2008, I had pestered Bartholomew (my dad) over the pressing need to meet and felicitate with a man I respected so much. My father did not disagree with me but rather implored me to fix a convenient date to meet that man.
Picking a date was not a difficult task for me but finding a suitable date when the man would be available to be met was the crux. But as I had thought, this really never became the problem afterall.
A harmless phone call to the number provided by one Okechukwu, a young man that lives with the man in question put the entire jigsaw together but that was not without the usual MTN’s frustrations of ‘the number you are calling is not available’ etc.
But a few minutes afterwards a return call from that number came seeking to know who was trying the number, and that voice was no less than that of the man I have dedicated this column to, albeit in death.
To say that life is transient is simply stating the obvious, but to state that good life lifts human spirit and brokers an opportunity for positive upliftment of many other lives everywhere is definitely not banal but a food for thought for only deep minds.
In this context therefore do I situate Igwe Matthew Onuoha Allen Okoro who until his death on May 4th 2008 was the traditional ruler of Okatta autonomous community in Ihitte Uboma local government area of Imo state.
Okatta community used to be my direct constituency as my community was part and parcel of it till we gained ‘independence’ and had the name ‘Uzinomi autonomous community’ with a different ruler.
But that never diminished our affiliations in all contexts. For me in particular this was particularly striking as my mother, a daughter of the soil hails from Okatta autonomous community. Based on pre-existing relationships, my father who lives in Owerri, still attends ‘meeting Okatta’ where high spirit of camaraderie reigns.
The death of Igwe Allen Okoro is definitely a loss to me and many others who knew the man and was close to him. Closeness to him in this context is not a product of everyday cohabitation or handouts but an appreciation of his amiable and friendly nature, goodwill and disposition to the poor.
The man did make an extraordinary contribution to human development in his community and the state. As one of the state’s longest reigned monarchs, Igwe Allen Okoro understood the many problems of his people.
He reached out to the poorest and the most vulnerable people of his community- regardless of their status or religion- listened to their problems, resolved their conflicts and empowered them to take their lives in their own hands.
As a visionary thinker, Igwe Allen Okoro had played an invaluable role in shaping the destiny of his people through his ‘ live and lets live’ philosophy that emphasized tolerance, understanding, moderation, fear of God and participatory development etc.
At the age of 79, His Royal Highness Igwe Allen Okoro had been on the throne for almost 30 years and till death was state-widely recognized as the “apostle of live and lets live”; a father for all, and a monarch who was distinct from the pack and, one whose immaterial legacies impacted positively on many lives.
Though death awaits all men; and that at 79 Igwe Allen Okoro could be said to have paid his dues; I am however still saddened that my people have lost such a colossus. However I am consoled that I ever had the opportunity of meeting him and his lovable wife a few weeks before his death.
The visit with Bartholomew was simply a ‘thank you visit’ to Igwe Allen Okoro for standing behind and supporting my father/my family during the ‘days of famine’ in my home. I need not count instances, but that was the man.
At that meeting in the Igwe’s Owerri residence we were well received, offered entertainment and shared a lot of reminiscences particularly on prayers, forgiveness, God’s blessings and community development.
I still remember Igwe asking my dad at that meeting if he did reconcile with a town’s man who died recently before his death. In his words, ‘reconciliation is good at all times because death without reconciliation is dangerous’ particularly for a Christian.
It was a happy reunion and the man had implored me to return for a personal chat, unaccompanied by my dad. But who knew that chat would never hold and that we would never be privileged to meet again.
Igwe Allen Okoro had a prosperous working life before honoring the invitation of his people to lead them. He was a former Director of Administration in Ibru Organization; one of the then respected commercial groups in the country.
After serving Ibru Organization for years, he was in 1978 crowned the traditional ruler of Okatta autonomous community in Ihitte Uboma local government area and later became the vice chairman of the Imo state council of traditional rulers and member of elders’ council of the state.
Igwe Matthew Onuoha Allen Okoro had a doctorate degree in Personal Management from California State University, United States in 1979 and later became Scout President. At a time, he became a board member of Nkalagu Cement Factory.
Igwe Matthew Onuoha Allen Okoro, was buried in his home town, Okata on Wednesday 21st May 2008 at a colorful ceremony attended by many distinguished groups particularly the Roman Catholic church where he faithfully belonged till date.
He is survived by a wife and many children, grand children, sisters, brothers, extended relations, friends and subjects.
May his soul rest in Peace, Amen!