It was a gathering of political giants and prominent citizens when Pa Pius Okonkwo Ngige, father of Minister of Labour Dr Chris Ngige and a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Chief Emeka Ngige, was buried in Alor, Anambra State,the Nation reports.
For a long time to come, residents of Alor town in Idemili South Local Government Area of Anambra State will not forget the burial of their patriarch, the late Pius Okonkwo Ngige (aka Akunnia).
The late Ngige was one of the oldest men in the state. He died at the age of 105. Thus, it was a celebration of life. The late Ngige is survived by his youngest brother, Alphonsus, who is in his 90s; six children, including a former Anambra State Governor and now Minister of Labour Dr Chris Ngige, and a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Chief Emeka Ngige, who holds the title of Ikemba n’Alor; as well as many grand and great-grand children.
A wake-keep the previous night took a party-like turn. Soon after prayers were said, fireworks lit up the sky. Various traditional dance groups entertained guests. On the adjourning roads leading to the Ngige family home, long rows of vehicles occupied both sides.
It was a beehive of activities last Friday, after a funeral mass at the St. Mary’s Catholic Church, Alor. There was a heavy security presence, including men of the Department of State Services (DSS) operatives and the police. Men of the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) and the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), were busy controlling traffic and the surging crowd.
Choice wines and assorted drinks were in abundance. Local delicacies as well as continental dishes were on display. It was a carnival-like occasion.
As large as the church cathedral was, it could not contain half of those who attended the ceremony. Canopies were mounted outside.
All Progressives Congress (APC) National Leader Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu led other party chiefs to the event. They included National Chairman John Odigie Oyegun; former Interim Chairman Chief Bisi Akande; a former Ogun State Governor Chief Segun Osoba; a former Ekiti State Governor Otunba Niyi Adebayo, among others.
Also at the event were: former Vice-President Alex Ekwueme; Edo State Governor Adams Oshiomhole; his Delta and Anambra counterparts Senator Ifeanyi Okowa and Willie Obiano; and former Anambra Governor Peter Obi. Also paying their last respects were Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu; Ebonyi State Governor Dave Umahi; Chief Niyi Akintola (SAN); Lagos branch chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Martins Ogunleye, his predecessor Chijioke Okoli, among others.
President Muhammadu Buhari was represented by Secretary to the Government of the Federation Pastor Babachir David Lawal; Senate President Bukola Saraki was represented by Senator Dino Melaye; former Enugu State Governor Dr Okwesilieze Nwodo; Chief Judge of Anambra State, Justice Peter Umeadi; a former Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor Charles Soludo; a former Inspector-General of Police Mike Okiro; and a former Director-General of the Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal Studies (NIALS) Prof Epiphany Azinge (SAN); ministers- James Ocholi (SAN) (State for Labour); Senator Udo Udoma (Budget and Planning); Dr Kayode Fayemi (Solid Mineral); Rotimi Amaechi (Transport) and Hajiya Zainab Maina (Women Affairs), among others.
Bishop Paulinus Ezeokafor, in his sermon, urged the Ngige family to be comforted by the good life their father lived.
He reminded all of the inevitability of death. He urged all to reconsider their lifestyles and change their bad ways by keeping God’s commandments.
Senator Ngige said: “My father’s life was a book of many volumes where you learn a lot of lessons. There was not a day I did not learn something new from him. He fought for the helpless, the voiceless, and the downtrodden.”
Emeka Ngige, in his tribute, said the late Akunnia meant a lot to him. He was not just a father, but a friend, confidant, counselor, protector, motivator, educator and role model.
The senior advocate said his father taught them integrity, consistency, doggedness, resilience, hard work, peacemaking and most importantly the fear of God.