Home Editorial Uche Chukwumerije   (1939-2015)

Uche Chukwumerije   (1939-2015)

Although Senator Uche Chukwumerije was alive on December 16, 2014 to debunk the rumour of his death the previous day, December 15, when it was alleged that he slumped and died following a shock he allegedly had after losing his bid to return to the senate  for the third consecutive time, death eventually crept up to him on Monday April 20, 2015. 
Comrade Uche Chukwumerije easily qualifies as one of the very few senators of the fifth, sixth and seventh senate who struggled hard to give the red chamber a high degree of relevance and credibility.
A man of his own mind, he did not prevaricate on any issue. He never hid his position, but clearly took a stand no matter whose ox is gored.
A labor unionist and journalist of international acclaim, Comrade Chukwumerije had founded or led various bodies among which were: Movement for African Union 1962 – 1965, Socialist Agit-Prop Group 1964 – 1966, Progressive Thinkers Forum 1965 – 1966, and Christian Unity Band.
Never comfortable with the prefix of an Igbo leader, the late senator who was part of the centrifugal forces during the Nigerian civil war of 1967 to 1970, was known to have thrown his hat into the ring on matters concerning the direction which the nation was heading and in 1961, his socialist vision inspired him to join the Socialist Workers and Farmers Party (SWAFP) led by Dr. Tunji Otegbeye.
At the end of the war in 1970, Chukwumerije founded AFRICOPE magazine, the first mouthpiece of the African continent with circulation all over Anglophone Africa.
By 1983 when the magazine folded up because of his heavy commitments to what he cherished as a superior cause namely the fight for the masses in Aminu Kano’s Peoples Redemption Party, PRP, Chukwumerije had emerged as the first journalist to interview Presidents or heads of states of all Independent African states. He, in fact, spearheaded a successful media campaign for Nigeria’s recognition of the regime of Dr. Augustinho Neto in war-torn Angola.
For three years, as PRP labored against all odds to win seats in Nigeria’s two national elections, Chukwumerije rose from the post of Publicity Secretary to Secretary General. Until his death, the comrade valued Aminu Kano and Aminu Kano’s PRP as the role model for Nigeria’s political class.
Aged 75, Uche Chukwumerije’s life was of many volumes which can only be told with care and time, of dedication and focus, integrity and discipline laced with an unbroken love for the highest ideals of shared humanity. He died after a long but gallant battle with lung cancer. He was born in November 1939.
First elected a Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in April 2003, representing Abia North Senatorial District, Chukwumerije was elected to the Senate on the Peoples Democratic Party’s (PDP) platform, but he fell out of favor with the party’s leadership when he opposed the Third Term Agenda of former President Olusegun Obasanjo.
He eventually decamped to the  Kalu’s Progressive People’s Alliance in 2006, and was re-elected to the Senate on April 28, 2007. Chukwumerije was again re-elected on the PDP platform in the April 2011 elections, a tenure which he would not sign off when the seventh senate adjourns till May 29, 2015.
It was not surprising that the senate adjourned sitting on Monday April 20 to mourn his death.
Chukwumerije served as minister of information in the dying days of the military regime of Ibrahim Babangida. He was again appointed minister of information in the interim national government of Ernest Shonekan.
He served as Chairman, Senate Committee on Education, a responsibility which he discharged with high sense of responsibility amidst provocative and contentious labor dispositions to national issues including the funding of the education sector and collective bargaining.
Senate President David Mark had kind words for the fallen hero when he said that Chukwumerije    “radiated intelligence, exemplary conduct in both public and private life. He was a team player who brought meaning to hard work. He was focused and determined to make positive difference”.
An economics graduate of the University of Ibadan, Chukwumerije was known as the ‘Conscience of the Senate’. He represented the sublimity of the legislative profession; he was a patriot per excellence who had an expert grasp of the ethics and processes of law making at the highest level.
The Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP) said that the union was devastated by news of the passage of Senator Uche Chukwumerije .The union described him as  “a dependable ally, an impassioned advocator, an enthusiastic mentor, a dogged defender of his convictions, a punctual presence, and indeed a most honest partner.  If we made any progress in our struggle, it is largely due to the dogged steadfastness of this extra-ordinary Nigerian who, once he understood the crux of our engagement, took it on as a personal endeavor.”
However, it was the Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) that amplified the virtues and contributions of Chukwumerije, the Dike ogu Ndigbo, when the group put him on the same pedestal with the late Biafran war leader Dim Chukwuemeka Odimegwu Ojukwu.
It was Chukwumerije that led others to negotiate the release of MASSOB members who were clamped into Kuje and Keffi prisons in 2007.
One of the lessons to be learnt from the life and times of the distinguished  late senator whose remains had since been buried in his home town Isuochi, Abia State, is that service to humanity is not selective. Good gestures are appreciated anywhere they occur. They do not have color. That was Chukwumerije as he lived indeed.  Those who commit to fostering national unity and progress in socio-cultural and economic emancipation of the Nigerian State will remain on the good side of history.
We call on both the Abia state and federal governments to immortalize him  as a signpost for those who crave to serve the nation in particular and humanity in general.
Adieu Comrade.

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