By Olanrewaju Akojede
The Minister of Information and Culture, Mr Lai Mohammed, on Friday described the pioneer General Manager of the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), the late Mr Onuora Nzekwu, as a patriotic Nigerian.
The minister was represented by the Executive Secretary, Nigerian Press Council, Mr Nnamdi Njemanze at the night of tributes held in honour of late Nzekwu at the premises of NAN in Lagos
“He was a patriotic Nigerian, who lived all his life providing selfless service to the nation. It may be hard to find such service in our society today.
“He was a great Nigerian and an exceptional man who helped to build NAN, and also trained so many journalists who have excelled in their various fields.
“He was also a cultural man and his work as Editor of `The Nigeria magazine helped in documenting various aspects of Nigeria’s cultural heritage.
“He was a good writer, who inspired a lot of young ones to appreciate literature,’’ the Minister, said in his remarks at “a Night of Tributes,’’ for the late pioneer chief executive of NAN in Lagos,” he said.
In his tribute, titled `Glorification of a Titan’, the Managing Director of NAN, Mr ‘Bayo Onanuga, described Nzekwu as a legendary writer, whose novels inspired many during his school days.
“I did not meet him during his time as General Manager, but I think he did a great work being the pioneer head of the agency, with a legacy that has still remained with us.
“I read his book during my days in secondary school about 46 years ago and we still share the experience today.
“I learnt that he was always sending unspent funds back to the Treasury and also, that he was a prolific writer and to crown his achievements, he was conferred with the National Honour of Officer of the Order of the Niger (OON) in 2008.
“Before this, he was honoured at the 30th anniversary of NAN as “The Maker of NAN’’, he added.
In another tribute from the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA), Mr Femi Onialeagbon, who represented the association, said that the prolific writer would be missed by his great works, which had left indelible marks in the literary world.
“Without mincing words, he was a great writer who will be sorely missed by all. He was a prolific writer which many of the young generation will look up to,’’ he said.
His daughter, Cordelia Uyanwa, said the simplicity of the literary giant endeared him to many.
“He was a man loved by all. At no point in time will you not find someone outside the family living with us. He accommodated all,’’ she said.
Another daughter, Nwando Idris, described Nzekwu as a man of few words.
“He was a man of few words but prolific in writing. He will always put his thought in the book. He communicated without saying a word.
“We are celebrating his lifetime as a wonderful man, who had a passion for all. He was a disciplinarian but not in the way many Nigerians would think he was,’’ she said.
In a sermon, Pastor Seye Kosoko, talked about legacies people will leave behind and enjoined all to endeavor to leave good legacies, an example of which Pa Nzekwu has left behind.
Quoting from Proverbs 22, Verse 8, Kosoko stressed the importance of the inheritance of moral stability, which he said could be found lacking in the society today.
“Our society has placed too much emphasis on monetary values than moral edification,’’ he noted.
Nzekwu, a notable writer and editor, was born in Kafanchan on Feb. 19, 1928.
A teacher and a revered poet early in his working life, Nzekwu authored several novels which included: Eze goes to School, and its sequel, Eze goes to College, with the great historian Michael Ajayi Crowder published in 1964 and 1988.
He also published `Wand of Noble Wood, `Highlife for Lizards, “Blade Among the Boys, “The Chima Dynasty in Onitsha and `Faith of our Fathers’.
In recognition of his works and contribution to education in Africa, Nzekwu received the Rockefeller Foundation Fellowship in 1961.
The award enabled him to study American Methods of Magazine Production in New York.
In 1964, Nzekwu was awarded a UNESCO Fellowship which allowed him to study Copyright Administration for three months in Geneva, Prague, Paris, London, New York and Washington.
Mr Nzekwu was conferred with the Nigerian National Honour of Officer of the Order of the Niger (OON) in 2008.
He was also honoured during the 30th Anniversary of NAN at Abuja in 1988, where he was presented a plaque with the engraving “Maker of NAN,’’ by the agency.
He joined the Federal Civil Service In January 1956, as an editorial assistant at the Nigeria Magazine Division of the Federal Ministry of Information.
Nzekwu worked as an editorial assistant from 1956 to 1958. In 1958, he took over the position of editor-in-chief of the magazine.
He continued to run the Nigeria Magazine Division of the Federal Ministry of Information until 1966, when the Nigerian Crisis compelled him to transfer his services to the Eastern Nigeria Public Service.
Nzekwu began as a senior information officer at Eastern Nigeria, a post where he combined the roles of the Information Ministry and Cultural officer.
In 1968, he was promoted deputy director of the newly-created Cultural Division.
At the end of hostilities in January 1970, Nzekwu returned to the Federal Ministry of Information in May and was assigned to the information division as senior information officer.
He worked as Protem general manager of the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) until July 1, 1979, when he then took over the position of substantive general manager.
Nzekwu retired from the Nigerian Public Service in 1985, after presiding over the affairs of NAN for nearly eight years and serving his country’s government for 39 years.
He died in Onitsha, his hometown, on April 21, where his remains would be interred on June 30.
The tribute session was attended by many retired personnel, as well as of the agency’s staff. (NAN)