Arthur Schopenhauer, a German philosopher, said “The deep pain that is felt at the death of every friendly soul arises from the feeling that there is in every individual something which is inexpressible, peculiar to him alone, and is, therefore, absolutely and irretrievably lost.”
It was a thunderbolt of shock and disbelief for me when in the evening of Tuesday, June 6, the news of the demise of a worthy friend reached me.
It is very unfortunate that most times we have to wait until a person has died before we tell the world what a wonderful friend he was, and if there are people guilty here, I am one. Today, I would like to pay tribute to a dear friend and pray that God will bless all that concerned him. His name is (or was) Uwakwe Abugu, Chief Press Secretary to Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State. Over the three years that I knew him, I learnt from him that no one will ever dim your light if you see the next person as one who complements your efforts rather than a competitor. He had the humility that could disarm a fiery soldier. His sudden death reminds me of one question that has defied an answer, “why do good people die?”
A day before the sad news of his demise filtered in, I was with a Permanent Secretary whom he had previously worked with, and we discussed how professionally he discharged his duties with humility.
The following day Tuesday, while with the South East Bureau Chief of a national daily in his office, we talked extensively about his good nature and his ever willingness to assist whenever he was called upon to do so even at short notice. These discussions held without our being aware that he had just given up the ghost in India where he had gone for treatment.
Uwakwe and I met in 2015 at Government House, Enugu after he assumed duty and I went to introduce myself to him as a member of his professional family and ours was friendship at first sight. In fact his demeanor was such that you couldn’t afford not to like him – the man was humane and focused.
He was always disposed to assist, render service and was a very good listener – he always listened however trivial the problem was. Uwakwe always wanted to be sure that you succeeded, he would always provide the elixir you needed whether it was within his reach or not. He was a role model and was always very optimistic.
Sometime in 2017, I was at his office as I usually did to greet him whenever I went to Government House. As I did not inform him that I was coming, I stumbled into a party-like feasting he was having with his staff. I made to leave as it was a gathering of strictly him and his staff, but he refused my leaving, instead he asked that I come to sit beside him. I joined in savouring the delicacies they had and he made sure I “washed those down” with enough genuine Enugu-Ezike palmwine. I felt ‘pleasantly odd’ but I enjoyed every bit of it. That was the kind of person Uwakwe was, ever ready to accommodate.
My last communication with him, through on phone, was in April when I had a need to make use of some documents of Governor Ugwuanyi in a promotional work. He asked me to forward my email so that he could direct his staff to send it. Somehow I got busy and forgot to send it to him immediately. He waited for my response and within 10 minutes of not receiving it, he called me to say he hadn’t received it. This is rare in a clime where most principal officers do not pick their calls let alone return them. That was Uwakwe for you.
As I join his family and friends to mourn his sudden departure, may God’s Angels be happy to receive him in their abode (his permanent home) because that is what happens when a good man triumphs.
*Ogbodo is a Member, Nigerian Institute of Public Relations