Family, friends and associates were thrown into mourning yesterday when Nigeria lost two renowned figures – former Minister of Foreign Affairs, lawyer and politician, Chief Ojo Maduekwe, and foremost literary icon, Captain Elechi Amadi (rtd), of “The Concubine” fame.
Maduekwe, who was until his death the Secretary of the Board of Trustees (BoT) of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), died yesterday at the age of 71 shortly after taking ill after he returned from a trip to the United States. He was said to have passed away on his way to the hospital.
Although it could not be ascertained which hospital he was being rushed to, THISDAY gathered from close associates that he was to be taken to the National Hospital, Abuja, before he gave up the ghost.
Maduekwe was born on May 6, 1945 in Ohafia, Ohafia Local Government Area of Abia State. He graduated from the University of Nigeria, Nsuka with LL.B Honours in 1972, and was called to the Nigerian Bar in 1973.
He was once the National Secretary of the PDP in 2005 and had worked as the Deputy Director of the PDP Presidential Campaign in 2011 for the Goodluck/Sambo ticket.
Other positions he held included Nigerian Ambassador to Canada (2011-2015); Minister of Foreign Affairs; Minister of Transport (2000-2003); Minister of Culture & Tourism (1990-2000); Legal and Constitutional Adviser to the President (2003-2005); Member, National Assembly (Second Republic) in 1983; Member, Constitutional Assembly (1988-1990); Member, National Constitutional Conference (1994-1995); and Adviser to the Social Democratic Party (SDP) Chairman (1990-1992).
He also once served as the adviser to the Minister of Foreign Affairs (1993-1995); Member, National Boundaries Adjustment Commission (1997-1998) and was elected a senator in 1998 in the Third Republic.
A erudite scholar and newspaper columnist, Madukwe belonged to many professional bodies including the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA), American Bar Association and International Bar Association, and was until last night a Senior Partner of Maduekwe & Co.
An elder in the Presbyterian Church of Nigeria, Maduekwe was also a Paul Harns Fellow in the Rotary Club.
Following his sudden demise, Nigerians especially members of his party expressed shock and disbelief over the passing of the loquacious politician.
The Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu, who was one of the early visitors at the Abuja residence of the deceased politician, expressed deep sadness over his death.
In a short statement issued by his media aide, Uche Anichukwu, Ekweremadu described the late Maduekwe “as a political colossus, public administrator par excellence and an uncommon patriot who has given his best to his fatherland”. He said he would be sorely missed.
The Chairman of the PDP BoT, Senator Walid Jubrin, described him as an intelligent person with the ability to solve nutty issues.
Jubrin, who said he was in Saudi Arabia for the lesser Hajj, added that he was shocked when he was told that Maduekwe had passed on.
According to Jubrin, family sources told him that Maduekwe died on his way to the hospital.
Jubrin said that he would use the opportunity of the lesser Hajj to pray for his family, adding that the party would continue to mourn him.
He said he would have loved to cut his journey to Saudi Arabia short, but disclosed that he could not do so as the process of the lesser Hajj had already started.
Jubrin said that he had been waiting for Maduekwe to return from his trip to the US, so they could put heads together to address the problem bedevelling the party.
He regretted that the former Nigeria Ambassador to Canada passed on at a critical time when the party needed him the most.
A former governor of Anambra State, Peter Obi, also mourned Maduekwe’s demise. He described Maduekwe as an unusual politician, who was not afraid of his own voice, especially in speaking out on matters bordering on the way forward for the country.
If he was brutal at certain points, Obi said, it was just an insight into the depth of his passion.
Obi also mourned the death of Elechi Amadi, describing him as one of the literary generals that helped in conquering the factors that militated against literary growth in the country. He said that he would remain alive through his literary works.
Obi prayed to God to grant both eternal rest and to grant those they left behind the courage to bear the losses.
Amadi, THISDAY gathered, died at the Good Heart Hospital, Port Harcourt of an undisclosed ailment.
A member of the family, Mr. Wabueze Amadi, said the renowned author, poet and novelist died at about 3.45pm yesterday at the hospital.
Amadi, who was 82 years old, will be best remembered for his 1966 novel, The Concubine, which has been called “an outstanding work of pure fiction”.
Some of his other works included The Great Ponds, Isiburu, Sunset in Biafra, Dance of Johannesburg, Peppersoup, The Road to Ibadan, The Slave, Estrangement, Les Grand Etangs, and The Woman of Calabar.
A scholar, Eldred Jones, in “African Literature 1966-1967”, African Forum, described the late literary icon as “a Nigerian author of plays and novels that are generally about African village life, customs, beliefs and religious practices, as they were before contact with the Western world”.
Born in 1934 in Aluu in Ikwerre Local Government Area of Rivers State, Amadi attended Government College, Umuahia (1948–52), Survey School, Oyo (1953–54), and the University of Ibadan (1955–59), where he obtained a degree in Physics and Mathematics.
He worked for a time as a land surveyor and later was a teacher at several schools, including the Nigerian Military School, Zaria (1963–66). Amadi served in the Nigerian Army, remained there during the Nigerian Civil War, and retired at the rank of captain.
He held various positions with the Rivers State Government: Permanent Secretary (1973–83), Commissioner for Education (1987–88) and Commissioner for Lands and Housing (1989–90).
He was a writer-in-residence and lecturer at the Rivers State College of Education (now Ignatius Ajuru University of Education), where he also held the positions of Dean of Arts, Head of the Literature Department and Director of General Studies.
In his lifetime, he was severally honoured by institutions and writers. On May 13, 1989, a symposium was held at the University of Port Harcourt to celebrate his 55th birthday while in May 2004, a conference was also organised by the Association of Nigerian Authors, Rivers State branch, to mark his 70th birthday.
He celebrated his 80th birthday in Port Harcourt in 2014, releasing a souvenir edition of one of his plays, Isiburu.
Amadi, who lived in his native Aluu community till his death, was kidnapped on January 5, 2009 at his home in Aluu town by unknown gunmen. He was released 23 hours later on the evening of January 6.
Reacting to the news of the death of Amadi, Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike said he was saddened by the death of the literary icon, describing his passage as a loss to the country.
In a condolence message to the family, the people of Rivers State and the entire country, Wike said Amadi’s contributions to the development of the nation were legendary.
He said his literary works promoted Rivers State, the Niger Delta and the country, hence he would be celebrated by Rivers State and all lovers of literature across the country.
Wike said the late Amadi was a consummate patriot, a great literary icon, a soldier’s soldier, and development enthusiast.
He prayed to God to grant his immediate family the strength to bear the irreparable loss, pointing out that his achievements in different areas of national life would always be remembered.
The Director-General, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Dr. Dakuku Peterside, also described the late Amadi as a patriot and literary icon who lived a good life.
A statement issued by his media office said: “Today we mourn the passage of a globally acknowledged literary icon and role model who lived an exemplary life.
“Captain Elechi Amadi, certainly was a man of many parts who touched lives in many ways. And he will be remembered for good by many people who met him physically or through his books. He was a well-known author, publisher, soldier and statesman who was concerned about a better society.
“My generation will definitely remember him more for his great books like The Concubine, The Great Ponds, Sunset in Biafra, Estrangement, The Slave, and a collection of poems.
“It is regrettable that Amadi passed away at a time when Rivers, our dear state is still far away from the aspirations of its founding fathers like him and most sons and daughters of the state.
“There is no doubt that Elder Elechi Amadi and other founding fathers will be weeping in their graves at the state of Rivers State. Nigeria and the international literary community has lost a creative giant.
“The departed patriot, no doubt, had a remarkable life and he will surely be remembered for serving humanity with literature and his interventions.
May his soul find eternal rest in the Lord.” (Thisday)