By Japhet Alakam
LAGOS— President Muhammadu Buhari and many notable Nigerians have commiserated with the family of Onuora Nzekwu, the pioneer General Manager of the News Agency of Nigeria,NAN, and co- author of Eze Goes to School.
Chief Onuora Nzekwu died, weekend, at the age of 89 in his Onitsha, Anambra home, where he had been living in retirement.
Nzekwu joined the Federal Civil Service as an editorial assistant at the Nigeria Magazine Division of the Federal Ministry of Information.
He worked as an editorial assistant from 1956 to 1958 when he took over the position of Editor-in-Chief of the magazine. In 1966, when the Nigerian civil war broke out, he transferred his services to the Eastern Nigeria Public Service and returned to the federal service at the end of the crisis in 1970.
He served as General Manager of NAN from 1979 to 1985. Nzekwu wrote Troubled Dust, a novel that recounts the experiences of the civil war.
In the President’s condolence message, which is posted on his twitter handle, @MBuhari, in Abuja on Saturday, President Buhari said the deceased’s literary works had contributed immensely in uplifting the quality of education across the country.
He particularly noted that the publication ‘Eze Goes to School” had been an important part of the lives of countless school children across Nigeria and beyond.
The President wrote: “I commiserate with the family of Chief Onuora Nzekwu, pioneer GM of NAN and author of Eze Goes to School and many other books.
“Since its publication, Eze Goes to School has been an important part of the lives of countless school children across Nigeria and beyond.
“May the soul of Chief Nzekwu rest in perfect peace and may Almighty God grant his family the fortitude to bear his demise.”
Ofeimum, others mourn
On his part, renowned author and poet, Odia Ofeimun, described Onuora Nzekwu’s death as a great loss to Nigerian literature.
According to him, “I think it is when a writer dies that we realise the importance of the producers of our cultural values, when people realise that Eze Goes to School is one of the best things that has been written for our adolescents. Many bad books are now written for our children. It is not the only book he wrote, but it was the most widely read. It is painful that we are losing such people at this time.”
Denja Abdulahi, Association of Nigeria Authors, ANA, national chairman in his reaction lamented the death of old writers.
He said: “Our old writers are dying and we are losing a lot of our cultural values. Until his death, many people do not know that the man who wrote Eze Goes to School is still alive, that is to tell you that we do not pay premium to our writers.
“But, that a lot of people still remember the book is an indication of its importance. The book was one of the great things that happened to education. It pays much premium to education and the struggle to get it, unlike now that the struggle is no longer there because when you graduate now, there is no job and graduates do all sorts of jobs.”
Also speaking Prof. Damian Opata of the Department of English and Literary Studies, University of Nigeria, Nsukka,UNN, said: “Like every popular literature, which is where he belongs, we have lost a great writer. He was one of the most popular writers along side Cyprian Ekwensi. He wrote other popular books and appealed through folklores, folktales and addressed issues that affect us.”
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