CELEBRATING THE BEACON A FEW WOULD LOVE TO HATE AT 55.

Currently serving as the Senior Special Assistant Event to Gov. Willy Obiano, official events around the state and its environs have experienced the flair and panache of the golden voiced, ebullient copper haired Okija born Public Relations and Communications expert, who keeps thrilling audiences from far and wide with his oratory prowess. Having come into his role in the public sector on the back of an illustrious and very fulfilling career spanning about 30 years in the private sector, where he carved out a niche for himself in Integrated Marketing, Marketing Communications, Broadcasting, Advertising, Public Relations and Brand Strategy, consulting for notable local and International brands like MTN, Etisalat, Procter and Gamble, Fidelity Bank and numerous other banks and multinationals etc, he had a clientele list housing the “high and mighty”, “who is who” and like our revered politician late Sam Mbakwe would say “men (women) of timber and caliber”, he was accomplished and sought-after.
It was his popularity and reputation as an adept communicator and compere that attracted our working governor Willy Obiano to Chido “Ogene” Obidiegwu and he has proven his mettle working assiduously to promote the image and vision of the governor and Anambra in general. Serving in the Obiano Administration over the past few years, Chido gave premium account of his stewardship and strode the length and breadth of Anambra State wooing all and sundry with his skill and flair, as he showcased his principal Gov Obiano. This is a man completely sold out to the Willy Obiano brand, who poured himself into ensuring that his wealth of experience benefited his principal and Anambra State.
Observing Chido’s antecedence, it was obvious he had a date with fate and a higher calling to add value to the aspirations of his people. Inevitably leaders within APGA’s hierarchy took cognizance of his rare qualities, dedication to his duty, the party and the people, his uncanny ability to captivate an audience, oratory prowess, intellectual capacity, natural inclination towards leadership and flair for addressing pertinent issues courageously and yet in a rollicking manner!! On one of those rare occasions, the National Chairman of APGA Ozonkpu Victor Oye couldn’t help voicing out his admiration and told Chido unequivocally that he had a higher call with destiny, politically. This was not surprising, it was an aura that was easily discernible, and stakeholders and members of his Ihiala constituency after watching his dedication and drive towards branding and projecting the image of Anambra State and Gov. Willy Obiano with stunning effects, kept compelling him to consider vying for a post that will put him in a pole position to re-brand and market the long neglected Local Government and draw attention to its potentials and ensure that its criminal neglect in terms of infrastructure and federal government presence is addressed.
The hallmark of Chido’s involvement with the Willy Obiano’s administration was powerfully orchestrated in the 21/21 re-election victory of 2017!! Oh Chido was a marvel to watch on the stage, a man transformed with a microphone in his hands, a genius on stage masterfully projecting the brand and achievements of Gov. Obiano, deploying the full complement of his flair and oratory prowess while thrilling diverse audience across the length and breadth of Anambra State!! Like everything else Chido does, he was committed, meticulous in his approach, resourceful and throughout the campaign he was readily available at every nook and cranny, in rain and in sunshine, nothing could stop him as he strove to support and market his principal Obiano and APGA as a party. I remember a certain day on the campaign trail, there was a rally in Onitsha and it was as if the gods had a score to settle that day, the windows of heaven were thrown open and a torrential out pour of rain descended upon the audience, while most people scampered for safety I watched Chido calmly take up the microphone and his distinct orotund voice resounded across the Fegge Staduim, it felt like a magical moment as I watched this maestro string the crowd along with songs and his revered eloquence like a “Kapellmeister” in his elements. The crowd defied the storm that day captivated by the voice and magnetic presence of the man we fondly call “Agu ji Ogene”, it was beautiful to behold but that is the Chido Obidiegwu we have come to know and respect!
A thoroughbred professional, Chido’s approach to his job is meticulous and exhaustive despite his convivial persona and watching him work can leave one enraptured. He is testament to the fact that success requires dedication, expertise, exceptional knowledge and not just skill. When Chido grabs a microphone, what we witness is not just a Master of Ceremonies doing what he loves best, nor is it just the flair of a unique wordsmith displaying his craft; it is a mixture of all these plus hours spent meticulously researching the peculiarities prior to any event. His work rate and commitment is infectious and its little wonder his career is trailed by numerous awards including a most recent one conferred on him by students of Anambra State University!! Yes! Chido is not all work and play, his philanthropic efforts towards the indigents and youth demography has largely gone unnoticed yet those too numerous to count who have experienced it understand that he is a man that can be relied on and who rallies round to the cry of the oppressed.
2018 was a standout year, one characterized by diverse lessons on life, politics, loyalty and betrayal. It was the year this gregarious personality finally accepted the clamor of the youths, women and noble men of Ihiala Federal Constituency and threw his hat into the ring, to vie for APGA ticket to the House of Representatives. It was a project he approached in his usual candor and meticulousness, despite his popularity and the clamor of the majority that he contests, Ogene went through the rigorous process of consultation, visiting stakeholders and members of the party in every village and ward. He leveraged on the goodwill he already commanded based on his antecedents within and outside the party, he was well known among the party foot soldiers as a man of his word and his long standing assistance and quiet work at the grassroots level was a major advantage. He is a man known for his outspoken nature and a lion’s heart, it was assuring to know that such an icon could represent them, and it was taken for granted that his flair and oratory prowess would be a huge advantage, and spur quality representation of Ihiala Federal Constituency at the Green Chambers. Predictably, the masses bought into his vision and observing his interaction with the various groups he parleyed with during his consultations, his deep passion to make things right for his people was so tangible that one could almost reach out and literally grasp it!! The people of his constituency, particularly the youths, women and vulnerable were attracted to him like bees to honey, despite the plethora of other formidable candidates in the race, it was obvious he was head and shoulder above the rest.
Chido had a big vision! He kept saying that Ihiala Constituency is a big and neglected brand that must be re-positioned, properly branded and marketed to the world through quality and strategic representation at the House of Representatives. It was his driving force and he was passionate that people step away from borehole and renovation politics and begin to attract real development to the constituency, to Alaigbo and Nigeria at-large, development that will impact lives and stand the test of time. Needless to say that each time he picked up the microphone to address these issues, Ogene literally purred poetically into the ears and minds of his people, they were enthralled by his vision, and the party structure at the grassroots level were no different. I recall vividly her Excellency Ebere Obiano’s solidarity visit to Ihiala LGA a few weeks to the APGA primaries, she received a rousing welcome as prospective candidates expectedly came out in grand style with their supporters. Agu ji Ogene, showed why men must be separated from boys as he stood out in the crowd in his usual manner. The crowd of Ward and LGA executives that jostled around his entourage all through the event was a testimony of his grip and widespread popularity among the party hierarchy at the grassroots level. He had always been a rallying point for the party at the local government level, having worked hard behind the scenes to stabilize Ihiala LGA APGA Executives.
Unfortunately his vision was abruptly halted at the rancorous and controversial party primaries, his political trajectory was hit by the hard facts of politics and the peculiarities of its Nigeria brand, things are not always what they seem and capacity, commitment and fair play is not always key in our political terrain. It was a sobering experience and one which I’m sure he has had ample time to reflect on. Despite persistent overtures from major stakeholders of a prominent party that Ogene should be their flag bearer and visible commitments of full sponsorship yet as those who know him would expect, he stuck to his convictions.
In the thick of his politicking and consultation last year, he was ushered into his 54th birthday and as usual friends again insisted on celebrating with him but in his customary style he asked everyone to support his philanthropic work, this has been a birthday tradition he held dear from his youth. In his unique style he chose to purchase Anambra Health Insurance Scheme for a select number of women, and then visited various hospitals within Ihiala LGA to spend time with the sick and put a smile on countless faces by paying off their hospital bills. This was not a gesture prompted by politics rather a product of a vow he took on his sick bed at Igbobi hospital, Lagos State,several years ago, when he was incapacitated by an accident and required orthopedic medical attention. Friends and well wishers refused to be constrained by his choice, Ogene is a man of the people, a socialite by nature and it was a sacrilege if a binge was not declared on his special day, and so we still ended up at a usual hangout to celebrate this prodigious gent.
And just like that another 365 days has flown by, and Chido is 55!!!!! Okwuruoha, Agu Ji Ogene!! Like our people say: “You will be like tomorrow which never ends” “Like fresh wine you will keep bubbling” “Oji nwayo adiro eme lu aru”(The man who moves gently does not hurt himself)!! I join numerous friends, well wishers, associates, colleagues and family to celebrate a remarkable man, fiercely loyal to his friends and devoted to his principles. Happy birthday and have an amazing year.

Chuka Okeke (chukaokeke@hotmail.com)

N/B: This eulogy was inspired by a classic piece “Chido@50: When the book reads like it’s cover” written by James Eze ( https://bit.ly/2OpIHL5) celebrating Chido Obidiegwu on his 50th birthday!

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