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[Nkanu Today] 41 Years On: Remembering the Life & Times of HRH Eze John Egbo Igwesi 
HRH Eze John Egbo Igwesi

[Nkanu Today] 41 Years On: Remembering the Life & Times of HRH Eze John Egbo Igwesi 


[Nkanu Today] 41 Years On: Remembering the Life & Times of HRH Eze John Egbo Igwesi 

By Onochie Jon-Igwesi


Today, April 11, marks the 41st anniversary of the demise of Igwe John Igwesi

Born in 1921 as the second son of Igwesi Ogbodo Nwa Nvene Achioke Ukwu Nta, a Warrior and Warrant Chief popularly known for his wealth, personality and character, with numerous praise names such as Igwesi Nvene Okpube (a rich man that provides shelter for others), Igwesi Nvene Odo Owo-Anu na agba doyi doyi na etikpo okita onu (Lion), Igwesi Nvene Ntereja (a man whose wealth is as uncountable as sand), amongst others, I recall an unsuccessful attempt to ascribe a foreign meaning to the name ‘Ntereja’ seven years ago, legendary John Igwesi stood towering among men.

Late John Egbo Igwesi was an academic scholar, a steadfast civil servant in the then Coal Corporation in Enugu, an outstanding and smart politician, an unrepentant clan/community leader who was widely reputed for championing any course for Nkanu and Awkunanaw, nearly becoming clannish, and a revered first-class traditional ruler. Eze Chinawaeze II of Obuoffia was known extensively for the humble commitment of his life and humble wealth to the service of his people.


Throughout his lifetime, John Igwesi  recorded innumerable political and developmental wins for Awkunanaw and Nkanu. He held many positions of authority in Nkanu Land and beyond, positions which may not be exhausted here. Prominent among them were, Honorable Member representing Udi East Central Constituency in the then Eastern Region House of Assembly under NCNC with the likes of Janeth Mokelu, Dike, etc. His stint as a Representative holding a mandate sacrosanctly given to him by his people was remarkable for consistently promoting, projecting and sustaining the interests of his people.

History has it that on a particular day, a day which started like any other, but on which Chukwu okike had a bigger plan for Nkanu, John Igwesi stood up on the floor of the Eastern Assembly, his voice towering above his colleagues, as he courageously moved the motion for the separation of Nkanu Division from the Old Udi Division, backing his motion with unarguable facts and ensuring he gained the needed traction for that motion to scale through, a feat he achieved and for which Nkanu was granted autonomy. Would it be an overstretch if I say that were it not for the intervention of God through Igwe John Igwesi, Nkanu may not have been?

John Igwesi went on to become a Divisional Officer (D.O) and was elected Chairman, Nkanu County Council for donkey years, where he instituted remarkable developments in Nkanu. He was a humanist and philanthropist whose milk and brook of compassion overflowed. You recall that piece I did in 2020 where I narrated how I benefitted firsthand, 39 years after his death, from his good deeds? He uplifted not just the development of infrastructures but also the development of churches, sports and education which he so believed in.

95-year-old Chief Mark Ngene, Egbe a nu-uzu of Attakwu, Akegbe Ugwu, Chairman of the Peace & Reconciliation Committee of Awkunanaw Welfare Association and a walking encyclopedia and repository of our history had a lot to say about John Igwesi. On the history of Awkunanaw and formation of Awkunanaw Welfare Association, he recalled “we were in school, I was in Standard 5 when the association started in 1945 through ’46, ’47 or so. It started because in Awkunanaw, there was no Standard 6 and the only mission in Nkanu was the Methodist mission in Agbani. Our people saw it as a backward development so began to think of how to have Standards 5 & 6 in Awkunanaw. Okeke ede from Umaa, Igwe John Igwesi, David Ani nw’ogbo met and decided to take the problem to one Revd. Wood who at that time was in charge of Agbani circuit in the Methodist church. They met with him and they were given conditions. The negotiation spanned from 1945 to 1948. The establishment of the present secondary school in Akpasha was as a result of that. Then it was a Standards 5 & 6 school. The establishment of that school was wonderful for our people. As far as the modern Awkunanaw is concerned, her development started from these three human figures”.


When asked about people who played major roles in the making of Nkanu’s history, he said “Ah, those who made Nkanu a modern Nkanu, those of us who are old still remember them but we are very few now. Fortunately, some of these things have been documented. Coming down to Awkunanaw, we had the paramount chief Ugwunnaji, Agbowo ebiem, Okeke ede, Igwe John Igwesi and so on. I still remember that in Nkanu, it was Dennis Nnaji of Oruku, Daniel Nnamani of Agbani, Igwe John Igwesi, Igwe Edward Nnaji that were at the fore front of the modern Nkanu and their base was at Agbani where we had the headquarters of Nkanu County Council. They first identified Nkanu because we were under Udi District Council. Nkanu said it was not wise for them to go second to Udi area. These men made it possible that Nkanu stood on her own. As at then, Nkanu had just very few schools, the only Standard 6 we had in Nkanu area was at Agbani Methodist Central School because the Methodist church was quite popular in Nkanu then. These names I mentioned were the pioneers that made it possible for each side in Nkanu to build their schools, and have up to Standard 6, which was the maximum then”.

Igwe John Igwesi may be dead but he still lives on because the fruits of his labour still exist. I recall one of my interactions with an Nkanu West stakeholder who said “Your family is still benefiting from the goodness of John Igwesi.” He was a man who didn’t believe that he alone should stand, a practical crusader of ‘Live and Let Live’.

Grandpa, as we mark the 41st anniversary of your demise, we thank God for enabling your descendants to attempt to sustain your ideals and legacies. You left a huge shoe which we are trying to fill, for who can easily fill in the shoes of a selfless servant like you? We wish to let you know that the Nkanu you toiled for has continued to be great and that just like in your time, she still has some black sheep. But isn’t that the beauty of life? Chinawaeze, you will forever remain green in our memories. May God continue to grant repose to your soul as we hope that one day, you will be given the loud post humous celebration you deserve.


As I drop my pen, I feel I should repeat what I had once written. Like someone once said, carve your name on hearts because legacy is not just leaving something for people but leaving something in people. Leave the inheritance of a good name for your children in a world that will feel indebted to them because of the kindness, goodness and compassion of their parents. It was Jonathan’s kindness that caused his crippled son Mephibosheth to eat at the table of the King, David, for the rest of his life.

Onochie Jon-Igwesi, a grandson of Igwe John Igwesi, writes from Omuoha-Obuoffia.


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