By: GELE AGBAI & UGOCHUKWU CHIMEZIRI
Dr. Basil Nnanna Ukaegbu had his hands in many pies while alive and he recorded relative successes in them. He was an educationist, politician, human rights activist and school proprietor of note.
He founded several schools namely Imerienwe Grammar School; Tedem College for Boys and Dorothy College for Girls. He also founded in 1981 the Tedem University, Nigeria’s first private university which unfortunately could not be approved by the federal authorities, who felt the country was not yet ripe for private sector participation in the tertiary level of the school system then.
Some of his kinsmen however gave a different perspective. They squarely blamed the then governor of Imo State, Chief Sam Mbakwe for the closure of Tedem (Technology and Economic Development Mission) University, Imerienwe.
One of them, who gave his name simply as Kingsley from Amafor Imerienwe Community disclosed that Ukaegbu had a turbulent political relationship with Governor Mbakwe.
According to him, Ukaegbu had demanded that Mbakwe stepped down for him instead of challenging him during the governorship primaries of the Nigeria Peoples Party (NPP). Kingsley said Ukaegbu premised his demand on the ground that Mbakwe, being his lawyer, was his boy and should accord him some respect.
When Mbakwe remained intransigent and went ahead to gain an upper hand at the NPP gubernatorial primary poll, Nnanna Ukaegbu had to cross over to the Great Nigeria Peoples Party GNPP to pick its ticket but lost to Mbakwe in the main poll.
Nnanna Ukaegbu, who hailed from Amafor Imerienwe Community in Ngor/Okpala Local Government Area of Imo State, replicated the relative success he attained in the education sector in the political arena.
He was the 1979 governorship candidate of the Great Nigeria Peoples Party (GNPP) during the Second Republic. He contested against Chief Sam Mbakwe of the Nigeria Peoples Party (NPP) and Chief Nwakanma Okoro of the National Party of Nigeria (NPN). He did not win so he never got to become the governor of Imo State, which he was eminently qualified to be.
Earlier, he was the Chief Whip of the Federal Parliament (1960-1966) and member of the G-34 that fought successfully the self-succession bid of late Gen Sani Abacha. When the military wanted to renege on its promise to return to the barracks, Nnanna Ukaegbu staged the popular one-man protest rally mixed with a hunger strike that attracted global attention.
Events depict Nnanna Ukaegbu as not only virile but also fertile. According to one of his nephews, he projected marrying a harem of seven women but succeeded in tying the nuptial knot with four women at the time he kicked the bucket.
His first wife, Madam Dorothy bore him four children made up of a daughter, Angela and three sons namely Hector, Kenneth, a medical doctor and Anthony. Hector, his first son lives in the United States of America. Angela also resides in the Yankees country with her husband.
Their mother, Madam Dorothy was the first to pass on. She died before her husband.
Before her demise, Nnanna Ukaegbu had tied the nuptial knot with Constance said to be his concubine.
Constance was a hair-dresser, who was making Madam Dorothy’s hair. Ukaegbu would take Dorothy to Constance’s salon for her hairs to be fixed. But little did Dorothy know that a steamy hot romance had developed between her husband and a struggling Constance, who had divorced her husband and wanted to be able to cater for her three children.
Dorothy was dismayed at the marriage between her husband and Constance but she could not stop it.
Constance parked in to live under same roof with the Nnanna Ukaegbus with her three kids: two females and a male sired by her first husband, an indigene of Abia State. Constance however later gave birth to another daughter from Ukaegbu’s loins.
Coming from Africa where polygamy is sanctioned, Nnanna Ukaegbu increased his harem by marrying another lady, Apolonia, a former principal with the Owerri Girls Secondary School.
We were told that Ukaegbu proposed to Apolonia when she paid a condolence visit to him after Dorothy’s demise.
But Apolonia, according to sources, found it difficult bearing her own biological children resulting in Ukaegbu adopting a boy and a girl for her.
Sources further revealed that Nnanna Ukaegbu also impregnated his house-help, one Onyinyechi, who was delivered of a boy, who is about 21 years old and at present studying in a school in the Western African country of Ghana.
All in all, Dr. Basil Nnanna Ukaegbu had five biological children and five foster kids before he was snatched by death in 2016, exactly six years ago.
Recall that his medical doctor son, Kenneth kicked the bucket before him. Sources said Kenneth’s demise contributed in no small measure to Nnanna Ukaegbu’s demise at a hospital in the World Bank area of Owerri where he was treated while sick. He reportedly went into depression upon the news of Kenneth’s passage.
Upon Ukaegbu’s death, one of his adopted children born by Constance took Ukaegbu’s corpse to a morgue in Christiana Hospital, Egbu in Owerri North Local Government Area but handed over the tally to Anthony, the third son from Dorothy, who insisted that the tally must be in his possession.
Note that both Angela and Hector were living abroad and still do till date. With the tally in his kitty, Anthony later conveyed the corpse to an unknown morgue or destination.
It was gathered that Anthony in addition demanded a ransom of N50million from family members before he could release the corpse for interment.
The reason for the demand for ransom, according to sources, is that Anthony felt shortchanged by his siblings who sold some of their father’s property without factoring his interest into the deal. As a result, Anthony saw the funeral ceremony as the best opportunity to slice off his own pound of flesh from the family.
Of course, neither Hector nor any other family member could cough out the huge sum to enable Anthony release the corpse for interment. And since the money was not forthcoming, the funeral rites could not be performed initially. Anthony also went underground and switched off his mobile phone to ensure nobody got in touch with him.
It was gathered that the exasperated family members led by Hector finally carried out the funeral rites of Dr. Basil Nnanna Ukaegbu on December 28, 2021 exactly five years after his demise without his corpse. To Hector and the rest, the burial ceremony had been performed; their father’s bones and limbs had been laid to rest, the absence of his corpse notwithstanding.
Kingsley disclosed that all rites due a great man like Ukaegbu were performed during the burial ceremony. According to him, the Amafor Imerienwe Community has also taken it to mean that Ukaegbu had been buried in spite of the fact that his corpse was nowhere to be seen on the funeral day.
Another interesting aspect of Ukaegbu’s life is that almost all he laboured to acquire while alive are today in ruins. Of course, the family is in disarray. Anthony does not agree with his other siblings.
Apolonia, his third wife is the one who lives in the Ukaegbu mansion located within the decrepit Tedem schools’ environment.
On the other hand, Constance and the house-help-turned wife, Onyinyechi reside in another building located a shouting distance from Apolonia’s. Some of Ukaegbu’s relations have erected their residential houses within the defunct Tedem University premises to the chagrin of Angela who we were told had threatened to bulldoze the buildings at the appropriate time.
Even the natives are not happy at the development of those properties by Ukaegbu’s relations.
A native, Okere told us that the community provided the vast expanse of land to Dr. Basil Nnanna Ukaegbu solely for use for the establishment of Tedem schools. According to him, now that the purpose for the donation was no longer being met, the community would like to reclaim its land.
He said the best the community could do would be to cede the part where Ukaegbu’s nuclear family resides and reallocate the rest to anyone or organization interested in using it for the establishment of an educational institution.
Okere said the community is ready to hand over the vast expanse of land to anyone or group interested in establishing a polytechnic rather than a university at the place.
As the reporters rode on a commuter motorcycle from Amafor Imerienwe Community to Ulakwo junction en route to Owerri, the Okada rider pointed at another vast expanse of land overgrown by weeds.
According to him, the vast expanse of land which now lies fallow once hosted St Basil Community Hospital, which was built by the community but handed over to Nnanna Ukaegbu to manage being their prominent son.
The motorcyclist revealed that indigenes of the community, who were incensed that Ukaegbu was channeling proceeds from the hospital into his private vault, mobilized and razed the hospital to the ground.
Today, St Basil Community Hospital Imerienwe is overgrown by weeds same way Tedem University which also hosts Tedem College, Dorothy College for Girls and primary school is overrun by weeds.
Our reporters were told that people like Chika Okpala and Jegede Sokoya of the New Masquerade fame as well as Aki and Pawpaw who reportedly were studying in the Tedem University had to vacate following the non-approval of the university.
Also, parents and guardians began withdrawing their wards from Tedem College for Boys and Dorothy College for Girls upon the demise of the founder. Today, the two secondary schools are shadows of themselves.
The school buildings are unpainted or have had their paint washed off. The laboratory building and hostels are dilapidated. Their roofs are blown away by windstorms. Weeds are competing to out-grow themselves.
Prince MacDonald MacDonald in an article entitled; “Why Can’t we bid Dr. Nnanna Ukaegbu Farewell?” described as very disheartening the inability of Ukaegbu’s kinsmen to give him a befitting burial after he ascended into the celestial realm.
He wrote; “It is very disheartening and unfortunate that since the celestial ascension of this indefatigable politician in 2016, his soul is yet to rest in peace in the metaphysical realm, his spirit still hovers around in anguish.
“His body has remained on the physical surface yet to be interred due to controversy, disunity and misunderstanding among his children.
“His remains since 2016 is decomposing in an unknown morgue in the state without any effort of committing his soul to mother earth. His family has been locked in the dark room of crisis and controversy.
“This is the height of disrespect and dishonour to the name of this great political Iroko who navigated through the bewildering storms of Nigerian politics.
“The greatest honour that can be accorded to the deceased is a befitting funeral. The hard-earned name of Chief Dr Basil Nnanna Ukaegbu has become a laughing stock and an object of ridicule.
“This is indeed a monumental shame and a disgrace to the family of this scion. Whatever that may be the cause of this deadlock and stalemate should be seriously addressed now.”
The cause of the deadlock or stalemate clearly was not addressed which made Anthony to remain adamant in not releasing their patriarch’s corpse for burial.
And it is not known whether the soul of Nnanna Ukaegbu could find eternal repose now that he had been buried without his body. But wherever Anthony kept the body, it would have decomposed and returned to dust by now except he gave it a special embalment. But what’s the special embalment for?
Anthony’s action teaches that it is not only the living that risk kidnap. Even the dead could also be kidnapped and ransom demanded. Think of your son kidnapping you at death and demanding payment of ransom! God forbid! Could that be your response?